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Sidney Nolan’s work brought Australian myths, legends, personalities and locations to life. Yet despite this creative loyalty to his homeland, he is one of our most famous exports, having had a spectacular international career largely based in the
In 1946 Nolan began a series of iconic paintings which became his motif - the bush-ranger Ned Kelly. The image was a recurring theme throughout his distinguished career, becoming such a part of Australian culture that the Kelly head was a major element of the spectacular Sydney 2000 Olympics opening.
Nolan also captured the red rawness of
Nolan was not the typical shy artist, but battled with being in the public eye. In 1965, at the height of his international reputation, he said: “Art is a dialogue between the artist inside himself and the exterior world. On the other hand, art as a career is a public exposure. These two points of view must be synchronised. A public image is not to be received without circumspection.”
The underlying tension is evident in Nolan’s last self-portrait, Myself, portraying him trapped behind a shadow of the image that made him famous – the Kelly head.