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Sidney Nolan: A Pillar of Australian Art. True or False?

Photo of Sidney Nolan
Photo of Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) stands as one of Australia's most acclaimed and influential artists, whose diverse body of work has left an indelible mark on the nation's cultural landscape.

Born in Carlton, Victoria, Nolan was largely self-taught, having briefly attended the National Gallery School in Melbourne. He found early employment in a design studio, which honed his skills in various mediums.

During the 1940s, Nolan became associated with the Angry Penguins, a group of avant-garde artists and writers. This period was pivotal in shaping his artistic vision and approach, encouraging a break from traditional styles and the exploration of uniquely Australian themes.

Ned Kelly series
Ned Kelly series

Nolan is perhaps best known for his iconic Ned Kelly series, created between 1946 and 1947. The series of 27 paintings narrates the story of the infamous bushranger, blending myth and history. Nolan's portrayal of Kelly, donned in his signature square-armored helmet, has become an enduring image in Australian art.

The series exemplifies Nolan's innovative use of materials, notably Ripolin, a commercial enamel paint, which endowed his works with a luminous quality. His bold color palette and abstracted landscapes challenge conventional depictions of the Australian outback, infusing the scenes with a dreamlike, surreal quality.

Ned Kelly 1955
Ned Kelly 1955

Nolan continued to experiment and evolve his style throughout his career, with later works often featuring more abstract and symbolic elements. His prolific output includes paintings, illustrations, stage design, and printmaking.

Nolan received numerous accolades, including a knighthood in 1981, and his works are held in major galleries worldwide.

Today, Nolan's artworks are highly sought after, with collectors and institutions vying to acquire pieces from his extensive oeuvre. His work is celebrated not only for its artistic merit but also for its role in shaping the narrative of Australian art and identity. Nolan’s paintings command high prices at auction, reflecting their enduring value and significance.

Nolan’s legacy endures, and his artworks continue to captivate and provoke, cementing his status as a towering figure in Australian art history.

I think we can safely conclude that Sidney Nolan is a pillar of Australian art and that he left an enduring mark on the landscape of Australian Art.

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