Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Sir Sidney Nolan

Born 1917, Melbourne, Australia. Died 1992, London, England

Sidney Nolan was one of the most celebrated of Australia’s twentieth century artists; after leaving school he attended the Prahan Technical College in the Department of Design and Crafts and began working for a manufacturer of hats, designing advertising and display materials. At the same between 1934 and 1936, he attended evening classes at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School becoming particularly interested in the early modernist painters Matisse, Picasso, Klee and the Surrealists as he began painting.

His subject matter was predominantly the legendary characters from Australian history, most notably Ned Kelly the bushranger and outlaw about whom he produced a series of works in 1946-47, and to which he would return later in his career. The first series was exhibited In 1949 to acclaim at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris and paintings from the second series in the mid-50s were acquired by major international collections including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council England and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In 1951, Nolan moved to London. He began travelling in Europe first to Greece, where he spent a year and then to Paris for two years where he studied engraving and lithography with S. W. Hayter at Atelier 17.

In 1957 a large retrospective exhibition was mounted at the Whitechapel Gallery and further shows followed regularly over the following decades, cementing his international reputation. This was recognised through the award of many distinctions: honorary doctorates by the Australian National University (1968), the University of London (1971), the University of Leeds (1974), and the University of Sydney (1977); fellowships of the University of York (1971), the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (1971); life membership of the National Gallery of Victoria (1983); honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (1985): member the Royal Academy of Arts, London (1991). He was appointed CBE (1963), made a Knight Bachelor (1981); a member of the Order of Merit (1983) and the Order of Australia (1988).

Lighthouse
Bearded Miner