Born a century ago in Melbourne, Sidney Nolan is considered one of Australia’s leading modern artists, with diverse work including painting, photography and stage design. He is perhaps best known for his series of paintings on legends from Australian history, most famously Ned Kelly.
From 1983 until his death, Nolan lived in The Rodd in Herfordshire near the Welsh borders, the landscape around which is said to have reminded him of the vast wide spaces of Australia and other places he had visited. The Sidney Nolan Trust was established in 1985 to support artists and musicians and provide exhibition space for works by Nolan and others at The Rodd. This year the Trust celebrates the centenary of Nolan’s birth with a series of events, including “Unseen”, an exhibition of 50 years of his work in the grand neo-classical architecture of the Australian High Commission in London.
The exhibition shows Nolan’s diversity from the early youthful portrait “Head of Rimbaud” of 1939, through the abstract works of the 1940’s to his more sinister “Heads” and “Convict” from the 1950’s when he also painted “Crucifixion”, and then onto through landscapes and other works, including one of his paintings of Ned Kelly, to his large abstract works from 1986, a few years before his death.
The works are primarily from the collection of the Sidney Nolan Trust itself and the exhibition’s title reflects the fact that many of these are stand-alone paintings and not part of a major series, which was often one of the characteristics of Nolan’s output as he brought paintings together as if in a poetic story.