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Sir Sidney Nolan

Tuesday, 4th October, 2011

‘LITTLE BOY LOST’, Riplon enamel on composition board, 1983, by Sidney Nolan. ‘LITTLE BOY LOST’, Riplon enamel on composition board, 1983, by Sidney Nolan.

This is the 14th in the series of articles by Catherine Farry, art education officer with the Regional Art Gallery, about the artists who painted the pictures in the city’s collection.

 Sidney Nolan, one of Australia’s best known painters and printmakers, was born in Carlton, Melbourne in 1917. He left school at 14, and pursued his interest in art with studies at Prahran Technical College and the National Gallery of Victoria Art School.

Nolan became close friends with the art patrons, John and Sunday Reed, and lived with them for some time after deserting the army during World War II. He had an open affair with Sunday Reed with whom he reportedly collaborated to paint the iconic Ned Kelly series. 

(The ownership of the series was subsequently fought over for years until the matter was settled by Reed’s donation of the 25 paintings to the National Gallery of Australia in 1977).  

Nolan joined the Angry Penguins during the 1940s, a group that included the artists Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester. 

He travelled throughout Australia before going to London in 1951. He continued to travel, going to continental Europe and in 1956 he moved to Greece where he lived for some time. He also spent time in Paris studying engraving and lithography with S.W. Hayter.  

Nolan also spent time in the USA and over the years travelled to China, Africa and Antarctica. Although he settled permanently in Britain and travelled a great deal, he retained a strong sense of Australian identity and would always return to Australia for at least a few months of each year.

His works are held in collections all over the world including the state galleries of Australia, the regional art galleries in the U.K. as well as the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pittsburgh Museum of Art and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Nolan was knighted in 1981 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1988. He was also elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. 

The Sydney Nolan Trust was established in 1985 to support artists and musicians as well as to provide a place for the work of Nolan and others to be exhibited. He died in London in 1992.

‘Little Boy Lost’ was purchased by Broken Hill City Council with the assistance of the artist in 1984.


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