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Australian art

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First-class marksman



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


'First-class marksman' shows the isolated figure of Ned Kelly in the solid black armour that is Nolan's most inventive pictorial device, its flat abstracted shape incongruously placed against a landscape of lyrical delicacy. The title refers to an incident which took place in Victoria's Wombat Ranges, when Kelly and his gang were practising their marksmanship, firing hundreds of rounds at surrounding trees from a bullet-proof hide-out.

Nolan made many paintings of the outlaw Kelly between 1946 and 1947 at Heide, home of patrons John and Sunday Reed. This was the only panel in the series not painted on the Heide dining table, but at the house of Russian expatriate artist Danila Vassilieff at Warrandyte, where Nolan was caretaker for two months. Its informal swift and transparent rendering is a precursor to subsequent series based on outback Queensland, such as 'Pretty Polly mine' 1948.

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Other Titles

First-class marksmen

The Marksman

Tireur de première classe

Alternative title

Tiratore di classe Tireur de premiere classe



Media category


Materials used

Ripolin enamel and alkyd on hardboard


90.2 x 121.2 cm board

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, pencil "12.12.46/ N.".


Purchased with funds provided by the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation 2010

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 11 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 50 publications


Michelle Andringa, Look, 'Spreading the art: Speeding collection images across the world', pg. 12-13, Sydney, Aug 2010, 12.

Murray Bail, Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly: the Ned Kelly paintings in the National Gallery of Australia, 'Ned Kelly, Artist', pg. 1-2, Canberra, 2002, 11, 16-19, 30, 31 (colour illus.), 75.

Louise Bellamy.,, 'Brett Whiteley's oil threatens record', Sydney, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 20.10.2013,

Michaela Boland and James Madden., The Weekend Australian, 'Sidney Nolan's marksman hits a record price', Canberra, 26 Mar 2010.

Michaela Boland, The Weekend Australian, 'The refined politics of fine arts', pg. 12, Canberra, 27 Nov 2010-28 Nov 2010, 12.

Michaela Boland, The Weekend Australian, 'Another Kelly replaces picture that went north', pg. 5, Canberra, 01 May 2010-02 May 2010, 5 (colour illus.).

Michaela Boland, The Weekend Australian, 'Victorians let Kelly cross border', pg. 10, Canberra, 10 Apr 2010-11 Apr 2010, 10 (colour illus.).

H. Brown, The Weekend Australian, 'Nolan's journey to paradise', pg. 8-24, Sydney, 21 Oct 1989-22 Oct 1989, 23.

Professor Joseph Burke, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art in Australia', pg. 10, Sydney, 04 Feb 1954, 10. General reference

Wally Caruana and Jane Clark, The Cambridge companion to Australian Art, 'Buying and selling Australian art: a brief historical survey', pg. 290-306, Port Melbourne, 2011, 290, 306.

Jean Cassou, Una serie di quadri ad olio del pittore australiano Sidney Nolan gentilmente concessi da Mrs.e Mr. John Reed di Melbourne, Rome, 1950. 6; titled 'Tiratore di classe'

Jean Cassou, Un groupe d'oeuvres du peintree Australien Sidney Nolan, Paris, 1949. 6; titled 'Tireur de premiere classe'

Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, Sydney, 1987, front cover (colour illus., detail), 76, 77 (colour illus.).

Sir Kenneth Clark and Artur Lundkvist, Sidney Nolan, Stockholm, 1976. 12; titled 'The marksman'

Justin Coomber, Daily telegraph mirror, 'The larrikin genius dies', pg. 4-5, Sydney, 30 Nov 1992, 4, 5 (illus.).

Peter Coster., Sun-Herald, 'Sydney Nolan painting of Ned Kelly expected to set Australian record at auction', Sydney, 16 Feb 2010, (colour illus.).

Deutscher Fine Art (Melbourne), Great Australian paintings from Melbourne Private Collections: Royal Children's Hospital Foundation Fundraiser Exhibition, Melbourne, 1997, 45 (illus.). 24

Paula Dredge, Look, 'On target', Sydney, Mar 2017-Apr 2017, 32-33 (colour illus'.

Adam Fulton., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Record $5.4m for Nolan', Sydney, 26 Mar 2010, (colour illus.).

W. Krüger., Art international [vol. 20, nos. 4-5], 'Sidney Nolan in Moderna Museet Stockholm', Switzerland, Apr 1976-May 1976, (illus.).

Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan: myth and imagery, London, 1967, 9.

John McDonald, Bonhams magazine, 'Outlaw art', London, Summer 2017, 31 (colour illus.).

Sandra McGrath, The Bulletin, 'Melbourne gives an Olympian salute to Nolan', pg. 78, Sydney, 16 Jun 1987, 78 (colour illus.).

Robert Melville, Ned Kelly: 27 paintings by Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', pg. 1-5, London, 1964, 10 (colour illus.), 46. plate no. 6

Menzies Art Brands Pty Ltd [Sydney], Menzies, Sydney: Australian, Aboriginal & International Fine Art 25 March 2010, Sydney, 2010, front cover (colour illus.), 88, 89 (colour illus.), 90, 91 (colour illus.), 94. lot no. 51; titled 'First-Class Marksman

NGV on Russell, Common Wealth: A tribute to federation, Melbourne, 2001.

Charles Osborne, Sidney Nolan: paintings, drawings and theatre design, Chester, 1983, (colour illus.). 4; titled 'First Class Marksman'; not paginated

Barry Pearce, Look, 'A quiet love affair: private passion over 33 years gives birth to a book', pg. 26-29, Sydney, Sep 2014, 26, 27 (colour illus.). extract

Barry Pearce, Frances Lindsay, Lou Klepac and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly 1946-47', pg. 114, Sydney, 2007, 114, 118 (colour illus.), 231, 242. 29; Collection of The Vizard Foundation, Melbourne

Helen Rayment, Australian modernism: the complexity and the diversity, North Caulfield, 1992, 5, 23 (colour illus.). 28

Warwick Reeder, The Ned Kelly Paintings: Nolan at Heide 1946-47, 'Nolan at Heide', pg. 9-15, Melbourne, 1997, 14, 25, 30, 49 (colour illus.), 77 (illus.). 36

Warwick Reeder, Heide I: A guide book, Bulleen, 2002, 10.

John Reed, The 'Kelly' paintings of Sidney Nolan 1946-47, Melbourne, Jun 1956. 6; titled 'First-class marksmen'

John Reed, The 'Kelly' paintings of Sidney Nolan 1946-47, Melbourne, Apr 1948. 6; titled 'First-class marksman'

T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly', pg. 59-99, London, 2002, 62, 68 (colour illus.). Reproduced by kind permission of The Vizard Foundation, Melbourne

Sarah Saunders (Editor), 50 something: National Seniors Association, 'Top Shelf', pg. 50, Brisbane, Jun 2010-Jul 2010, 50 (colour illus.).

John Saxby, Sydney Morning Herald, no 15348, 'A window opens on new stories about building the collection', pg. 26-28, Sydney, 04 Jun 1887, 26.

Andrew Sayers, Sidney Nolan: the Ned Kelly story, New York, 1994, 28, 36 (illus.).

Sotheby's Australia, Sotheby's Melbourne: Fine Australian paintings (14th August 1989), Melbourne, 1989, front cover (colour illus., detail), (colour illus.). lot no. 296A

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Guided tours: highlights of the Australian collection', pg. 52, Sydney, Aug 2012, 52 (colour illus.). Article featured in 'What's on elsewhere'.

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Bullseye!', pg. 15, Sydney, Jun 2010, 11, 15 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Sep 2010, 6 (colour illus.). Menzies Auctioneers advertisement

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Barry Pearce's next book-call it "segueing with intent"'by Jill Sykes, pg. 28-29, Sydney, Mar 2012, 28.

Brendan Trembath., The World Today with Eleanor Hall, 'Nolan's "First Class Marksman" hangs in Sydney', 31 Mar 2010. Interview features Edmund Capon, Eleanor Hall, Virginia Judge, Lou Klepac and Brendan Trembath.

Staff writers., The Australian, 'AGNSW reveals mystery buyer of Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly', Surry Hills, 31 Mar 2010, (colour illus.).

Jane Wynter (Editor), Foundation Newsletter #17, Sydney, Dec 2010, (colour illus.). Photo has Lou Klepac standing beside painting.

Sidney Nolan oeuvres d'un grand peintre australien a l'ambassade d'australie, Paris, 1978. 4; titled 'The Marksman'

Editor Unknown, A.M.: the Australian monthly, 'Ned Kelly Hangs Again', Sydney, Feb 1950, (illus.).

Unknown (Editor), The Epoch Times, 'Kelly Hangs Again, This Time in Sydney', Sydney, 31 Mar 2010.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Courier Mail, 'Artistic knight cherished his working-class origins', pg. 9, Queensland, 30 Nov 1992, 9.