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Australian art

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Self portrait



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


From the outset of his career in Melbourne, Sidney Nolan stood out as a highly original artist. He painted 'Self portrait' at the age of 26, during his military service in the Wimmera district of north-west Victoria. It embodies many of his
preoccupations at the time, including his interest in the landscape as subject.

Nolan's imagery recalled the mask-like faces painted by so-called 'haptic' children in Viktor Lowenfeld's book 'The nature of creative activity', which he and other artists were reading at that time. Another source may be indicated in a letter
Nolan wrote to his patron and muse, Sunday Reed, in 1944, in which he admires Picasso's use of African cicatrisation or scarification and Maori markings in portraits. Selective distortion, exaggeration and the visual impact of pure, bold primary colours express Nolan's feelings about his surroundings; however, the image is tempered by the lyrical passages depicting the vast Wimmera landscape.


Video 19:54

Violence and sunlight: the art of Sidney Nolan

Watch on Gallery Channel


Place where the work was made

Dimboola Victoria Australia



Media category


Materials used

Ripolin enamel on hessian sacking


61.0 x 52.0 cm stretcher; 72.0 x 62.9 x 5.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l., blue ball-point pen onto dry paint film "N ["N" backwards] March 43".
Signed and dated centre verso, brown crayon "... / Nolan ["N" backwards]/ March 1943".
Signed and dated verso on strainer right member, pencil "12/6/43 Nolan".


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1997

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 14 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 53 publications


Brian Adams, Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 60, 61 (illus.).

Brian Adams, Good Weekend Magazine, 'Sidney Nolan verus Australia', pg. 16-18, Sydney, Apr 1987, 17 (colour illus.).

Julian Agnew., Sidney Nolan: Across continents, 'Introduction', London, 2010, (colour illus.). 1

Prue Allen, Look, 'Message from the President of the Art Gallery Society', pg. 6, Melbourne, Sep 1999, 6.

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 1998, Sydney, 1998, cover (colour illus.).

Zoja Bojic., South Sydney bulletin, 'New Acquisitions: The Art Gallery of NSW', Strawberry Hills, 17 Feb 1998, unknown.

Edmund Capon, Look, 'Sidney Nolan's sense of self', pg. 14-15, Heidelberg, Mar 1998, cover (colour illus.), 3 (colour illus.), 14-15 (colour illus.). Page 3 depicts a detailed image of this painting.

Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, 'War and the Wimmera', pg. 42-44, Sydney, 1987, 54 (colour illus.).

Peter Conrad., The observer, 'A voyage around myself', London, 30 Oct 2005.

Julie Cotter, Art Monthly Australia, 'How London is Appropriating 'our' Nolan', pg. 11-12, Canberra, Sep 1997, 11, 12 (illus.).

Rob Ditessa', Artist's palette, 'Icons on show', pg. 54-59, Sydney, 2000, 59 (colour illus.).

Edward Gage, The Scotsman, 'Nolan works bridge the great divide', pg. 6, Edinburgh, 26 Jun 1989, 6.

Prue Gibson, Australian art review, 'Nolan retrospective', pg. 17, New South Wales, Nov 2007-Feb 2008, 4 (colour illus.), 17 (colour illus.).

Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, 'Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960', pg. 15-41, Canberra, 2010, 36, 120 (colour illus.).

Max Harris, Art and Australia [vol. 5, no. 2], 'Nolan at St Kilda', pg. 437-442, Sydney, Sep 1967, 438 (illus.). private collection

Alistair Hicks, The Times, 'Beneath the surface', pg.16, London, 06 Sep 1988, 16 (illus.).

Terry Ingram., The Australian financial review, 'London dealer back in the dress circle', Sydney, 12 Feb 1998, unknown.

Nicholas Isherwood, Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, London, 1997, cover (colour. illus.), 9 (colour illus.). 9

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 149 (colour illus.).

Philippa Kelly, Artlook, 'Within and without the portrait', pg. 19-21, Fyshwick, Jul 2004, 21 (colour illus.). Review of the exhibition 'Looking within: Self portraits in Australia', held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2004.

Joan Kerr, Art Monthly Australia, 'The possibilities of a National Portrait Gallery', pg.4-7, Canberra, Apr 1999, 6 (colour illus.).

Susan McCulloch-Uehlin, The Weekend Australian magazine, 'The Artists', pg. 14-15, Sydney, 28 Aug 1999, 15 (colour illus.).

Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967, 17. 6

Drusilla Modjeska, Stravinsky's lunch, 'No Man's Land', pg. 177-202, Sydney, 1999, 200 (colour illus.).

Joyce Morgan, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Gallery unveils a few small wonders', pg. 5, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 5 (illus.).

Barry Pearce, Sidney Nolan, 'Nolan's Parallel Universe', pg. 17-66, Sydney, 2007, 10 (colour illus.), 23, 30, 31,59, 61, 90 (colour illus.), 99 (colour illus.), 230. 12

Barry Pearce, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Presenting our own artists: how the AGS put balance into the Australian collection', pg. 42-44, Sydney, May 2003, 43 (colour illus.), 44.

the Art Gallery of NSW'. pg, The Sydney Morning Herald (metro), 'Syndey Nolan's Self Portrait 1943, one of three new acquisitions, 28., Sydney, 27 Feb 1998-05 Mar 1998, 28 (illus.).

Maria Prerauer, The Bulletin with Newsweek, 'Full house for media-shy Chaplin', pg. 73, Sydney, 17 Feb 1998, 72 (colour illus.).

Ursula Prunster, Self portrait: Renaissance to contemporary, 'Sidney Nolan', pg. 178, London, 2005, 37, 178, 179 (colour illus.). 47

Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 8: Sidney Nolan 'Self portrait' 1943

Ursula Prunster, Look, 'Image and identity: the perennial question of Australian identity features in the Gallery's 2001 lecture series', pg. 10-11, Melbourne, Dec 2000-Jan 2001, 10 (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sidney Nolan retrospective, Sydney, 2007, cover (colour illus.).

Barrett Reid, Art and Australia (Vol. 25, No. 2), 'A landscape of a painter: the Sidney Nolan retrospective exhibition', pg. 179-181, Sydney, Summer 1987, 179 (colour illus.).

T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, London, 2002, 6 (colour illus., detail), 8.

Andrew Sayers, To look within: self portraits in Australia, 'The artist's self-portrait in Australia', pg. 6-33, Brisbane, 2004, 29-30, 31 (colour illus.).

Andrew Sayers (Director), National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 1999, (colour illus.).

Andrew Sayers, Sidney Nolan heads, Canberra, 2001. not paginated; Checklist of works and reference to work in essay by Andrew Sayers.

Sebastian Smee'., The Australian, 'Gallery makes room for foundation's gift of Nolans', Sydney, 21 Dec 2004.

Sotheby's Australia, Sotheby's Sydney: Important Australian Art (31 August 2010), Melbourne, 2010, 38.

Ann Stephen, On looking at looking : the art and politics of Ian Burn, 'Modernism and the Nolan Effect', pg. 55-60, Victoria, 2006, 60 (colour illus.).

Katrina Strickland, The Australian financial review, 'Masks and muses: Relationships reveal a restless talent', pg. 44, Sydney, 28 May 2009, 44 (colour illus.). References 'Mask and Memory' documentary on Sidney Nolan, aired ABC 1 4 June 2009.

Kim Sweetman, Daily telegraph, 'The beauty of $3 million', pg. 9, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 9 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Oct 2007, 11.

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Portrait season', pg. 12, Sydney, Jul 2014, 12 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Doing justice to Nolan', pg. 8, Sydney, Mar 2005, 8.

Catherine Taylor, The Australian, 'The Arts on Friday: Nolan self-portrait in gallery coup', pg. 15, Sydney, 06 Feb 1998, 15 (colour illus.).

Matthew Westwood., HQ, 'Sidney Nolan', Darlinghurst, Sep 2000, page unknown (colour illus.).

Natalie Wilson, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Melbourne: realisms and mythologies', pg. 163-164, Sydney, 2000, 164, 174 (colour illus.), 301.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Face of Sidney Nolan', Sydney, 19 Aug 1967, page unknown (illus.). This image shows Sidney Nolan and Hal Missingham holding the painting at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, at the time of the Sidney Nolan Retrospective in 1967.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'A fake?', Sydney, 10 Feb 1998, unknown. Letter to the editor

Nolan: Everyone feels they know Nolan, but that is far from the truth, East Melbourne, 2018. DVD documentary

The Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchase, 'Sidney Nolan', Sydney, 1998, (colour illus.).