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Sir Sidney Nolan | Pallant House Gallery


April the 22nd is the centenary of the birth of one of Australia's leading 20th century artists, Sir Sidney Nolan. His work is diverse, from intense detailed outback landscapes, portraits influenced by children's art and 20th century modernists, to large scale murals inspired by the 'finger-and-thumb' drawing technique of Indigenous Australian sand painters.


He is best known for a series of paintings featuring legends and iconic figures from Australian history. The most famous and contentious of these is Ned Kelly, and Nolan's depiction of Ned and his armour has become an icon of Australian Art. Kelly was an outlaw, but many Australians see him as a 'Robin Hood' figure - one that represents a nostalgia for a freedom and way of living replaced in modern Australia. Historian Geoffrey Serle called Kelly and his gang 'The last expression of the lawless frontier' in a modernised and educated country, 'the last protest of the mighty bush'. Still, over a hundred years later, Ned Kelly remains a controversial cultural icon, a part of the national psyche inspiring countless works of art. Some celebrate him, whilst others depict him as a criminal undeserving of hero status.

The Kelly series was painted throughout a tumultuous time dur