Sidney Nolan / Australia/England 1917–1992 / Platypus Bay, Fraser Island 1947 / Enamel on board / 76 x 105.5cm / Purchased 2013. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Courtesy of the artist’s Estate /

Sidney Nolan
Platypus Bay, Fraser Island 1947

On Display: QAG, Gallery 10

Born in 1917, Sidney Nolan lived with his family in an Irish-Australian enclave in Melbourne. After leaving school, he began a part-time art correspondence course, and in 1934, he attended evening drawing classes at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School.

Nolan believed that the emotional potency of mythology can add resonance to the facts of history. Across his body of work, he experimented with size and technique, returning to the formal task of positioning a focal subject within a context and in front of a background.

His first solo exhibition, a series of abstracts and collages, was held in 1940. Between 1942 and 1945, Nolan served in the Australian Army, guarding stores in western Victoria, where he began painting outback landscapes.

He first depicted bushranger Ned Kelly in early 1945. The following year, he was discharged in absentia after failing to return to service following a month’s leave. Nolan ventured to Queensland in July 1947, spending several weeks visiting Brisbane and Fraser Island.

In 1950, he left for England, and in 1957, he was recognised with a retrospective at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. Nolan had more than 70 solo exhibitions and was knighted in 1981.

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