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Australian art

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Pretty Polly Mine



Sidney Nolan

Australia, England

22 Apr 1917 - 28 Nov 1992


One of a series of 'Outback' paintings made following a trip to Queensland and Fraser Island in 1947, 'Pretty Polly Mine' - with its haunting, desolate remains of a once prosperous past - was the first of Nolan's works to be acquired by any public gallery, together with 'Carron Plains'.

Painted from memories of a visit to a deserted Mt Isa mine, the stiff, dark-suited figure wandering the ramshackle structures is based on the mine manager the artist met there, who:
'... liked feeding birds every morning. Everyone thought he was bonkers, but he fed the birds, rosellas and all.'
- Sidney Nolan 1978

Nolan's concept of the Australian landscape is interwoven with its history, legends and the psyche of its inhabitants, producing works which are often surreal in character.

In 1949 he travelled to Central Australia, and produced another important series of landscapes, which received widespread critical acclaim:
'He may well be the man we have been hoping would arise - someone who is capable of expressing with size and vision what many Australians feel ... about this great and unusual country ... His effort and his intent will earn the gratitude of many devoted Australians.'
- R.G. Casey 1950


Video 19:54

Violence and sunlight: the art of Sidney Nolan

Watch on Gallery Channel


Place where the work was made

Wahroonga Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

Ripolin enamel on hardboard


91.0 x 122.2 cm board; 107.2 x 137.9 x 5.2 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, pencil "4-12-48 / 21 Nolan".


Purchased 1949

Accession number


Artist information

Sidney Nolan

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 10 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 48 publications


Brian Adams, Sidney Nolan: such is life, Melbourne, 1987, 88 (colour illus.), 106.

Michaela Boland., The Australian, 'Sidney Nolan work takes wing, after 65 years', Sydney, 19 Jul 2013, n.pag.. viewed 31.07.2013,

Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century Art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 73, 75 (colour illus.).

Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan - landscapes and legends: a retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1987, 'Outback', pg. 95-108, Sydney, 1987, 103 (colour illus.).

Jane Clark, The Dictionary of Art, 'Sir Sidney Nolan', pg. 183-184, New York, 1996, 182, 183 (colour illus.). NOTE: vol. 23

Betty Collins, The Copper Crucible, Queensland, 1996, wrap-around cover (colour illus.).

Tony Costa, Look, 'The art that made me - Archibald winner, Tony Costa on Kevin Connor, Sidney Nolan, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Ian Fairweather', pg. 23-25, Sydney, Sep 2019-Oct 2019, 24 (colour illus.).

David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, Sidney Nolan: Exhibition of Queensland outback paintings, Sydney, 1949. 24; priced 45 guineas

Paula Dredge, Sidney Nolan: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2020, 73-74, 75 (colour illus.), 124, 132 (index). fig. 67

James Gleeson., Sun, 'Gallery purchases for 1949', Sydney, 19 Dec 1949.

Deborah Hart, Australia, 'Australian landscape: pathways into the modern world 1920-50', pg. 184-225, London, 2013, 18-19 (colour illus.), 191, 224 (colour illus.). 158

Leone Hendry, Australian Library - Famous Australians, Melbourne, 1997, 18.

Nicholas Isherwood, Nolan's Nolans: a reputation reassessed, London, 1997. not paginated; NOTE: under 34 'Dog and duck' entry

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 155 (colour illus.).

Lou Klepac, Hal Missingham: Artist, author, photographer, Roseville, 2017, 21 (colour illus.).

Lou Klepac, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'Sidney Nolan', pg. 136-147, Sydney, 2000, 143 (colour illus.).

Patrick McCaughey (Editor), Bert & Ned: the correspondence of Albert Tucker and Sidney Nolan, Carlton, 2006, 107-114. NOTE: Letter to Albert Tucker dated 26th January 1950. Reference made to travelling around Australia and AGNSW purchasing two artworks.

Alan McCulloch and Susan McCulloch, The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, St Leonards, 1994, 522-23 (colour illus.).

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 55 (colour illus.).

Sandra McGrath and John Olsen, The artist & the desert, Sydney, 1981, 62 (colour illus.), 63 (colour illus, detail).

Tatlock Miller., Sun, 'Amazing impact by Australian artist', Sydney, 08 Mar 1949. Review of Nolan's exhibition of outback paintings held at David Jones' Art Gallery.

Hal Missingham, Sidney Nolan. Retrospective exhibition. Paintings from 1937 to 1967, Sydney, 1967. 49; not paginated

Hal Missingham, A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Sydney, 1953. 146

Hal Missingham, They kill you in the end, 'Trustees', pg. 24-44, Sydney, 1973, 28.

Hal Missingham, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Sidney Nolan', pg 362-365, Sydney, Oct 1967, 364, 365 (illus.).

Hal Missingham, The studio, 'Recent Australian Painting', pg. 33-41, 63, London, Feb 1957, cover (illus.), 35 (illus.).

Brenda Niall, Judy Cassab: a portrait, Sydney, 2005, 198. NOTE: Reference to Missingham purchasing the artwork

Elwyn Lynn, Sidney Nolan - Australia, Sydney, 1979, 78, 79 (colour illus.), 80.

Barry Pearce, Australian Artists, Australian Birds, North Ryde, 1989, 112 (colour illus.). plate no. 93

Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 27, 29 (illus.).

Barry Pearce, Fifteen decades of Australian paintings, Sydney, 1981, (colour illus.). not paginated; 12

Barry Pearce, Frances Lindsay, Lou Klepac and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Sidney Nolan, 'Queensland, North and Central Australia 1947-53', pg. 134, Sydney, 2007, 39, 134, 139 (colour illus.), 233. 48

Barry Pearce, The Weekend Australian, 'Time makes its judgment', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 12 Aug 2000-13 Aug 2000, 3 (colour illus.). This colour supplement is a 'Review Special' published for the 'Weekend Australian'. It consists of a four-page, colour wrap-around for the 'Weekend Australian Review'. 'The Australian' was the media sponsor for the AGNSW Exhibition 'Australian Icons', for the Olympic Arts Festival 2000.

Corrie Perkin, The Australian, 'A thoroughly modern milieu', pg.36, Sydney, 08 Feb 2007, 36 (colour illus.). NOTE: Book review for "Modernism and Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture, 1917-1967".

Bryan Robertson, Sidney Nolan, 'Preface', pg. 3-4, London, 1957, 18. 11

Robert Rooney., The Weekend Australian, 'Favourite thems revisited', Sydney, 06 Jun 1987-07 Jun 1987, unknown. NOTE: Review of 'Myths and Heroes: The art of Sir Sidney Nolan 1937-1982" at NGV.

T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, 'Eureka and the miners', pg. 188-197, London, 2002, 194, 195 (colour illus.), 196.

Shirley Sherwood (Editor), Australia Explored by the Great South Pacific Express, 'Arts of Australia', pg. 32-35, Australia, 1998, 35 (colour illus.).

Bernard William Smith, A catalogue of Australian oil paintings in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1875-1952, Sydney, 1953, 155. 496; Provenance: purchased by the Director, Mr. Hal Missingham, 7/3/1949, from the exhibition of the artist's works held at David Jones's Art Gallery.

Geoffrey Smith, Sidney Nolan: desert & drought, 'Outback', pg. 12-64, Melbourne, 2003, 12, 14. NOTE: General information

William Splatt and Barbara Burton, 100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 166, 167 (colour illus.). plate no. 80

Felicity St John Moore, Charles Blackman: schoolgirls and angels: a retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, Melbourne, 1993, 5 (illus.).

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Breaking the territorial mould: some thoughts from a new head curator', pg. 30-31, Sydney, Sep 2011, 30 (colour illus.).

Daniel Thomas, Art and Australia, 'Australian collection', pg. 52-62, Sydney, Jul 1972, 55 (colour illus.).

Matthew Westwood., HQ, 'Sidney Nolan', Darlinghurst, Sep 2000, page unknown.

Judith White, Look, 'Olympians of Australian art', pg. 16-18, Melbourne, Jul 2000, 18 (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, 175 (colour illus.), 301.

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