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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Self portrait

1988
Sidney Nolan

oil on composition board (frame: 135.0 cm x 104.5 cm, support: 121.5 cm x 91.5 cm)

Sir Sidney Nolan AC OM CBE, among the most original and inventive Australian artist of the post-war decades, was one of the few Australian artists to achieve an international reputation in the twentieth century. After becoming associated with the modernist art patrons John and Sunday Reed, he made the complex series of paintings of Ned Kelly for which he is best known at their home Heide between 1945 and 1947. From 1950 Nolan lived abroad, but returned to Australia at regular intervals and continued to explore Australian themes and landscapes. A major retrospective of his work, Sidney Nolan – A New Retrospective, held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2007, brought together more than 100 of his works.

Nolan painted a number of self portraits, beginning early in his career. The merged inky blues, pinks and subtle greys of this example are characteristic of the artist's late style. While there is a trace of a satisfied smile, the face is elusive, hazy, veiled, with the head apparently oscillating between profile and three-quarter view. Ultimately, the painting is ambiguous, seeming, like all Nolan's self portraits, to allude simultaneously to his public persona and his internal imagination – to both the mask, and the inner poetry of the artist.

Gift of Hon RL Hunter QC 2006. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Sidney Nolan/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Sidney Nolan (age 71 in 1988)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Hon. R L. Hunter QC (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969
Artist and wife near Arthurs Seat, 1969

Through blue eyes

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Works by Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan bring the desert, the misty seashore and the hot Monaro plains to exhibition Open Air: Portraits in the landscape.

Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia

Cultural kaleidoscope

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

The complex connections between four creative Australians; Patrick White, Sidney Nolan, Robert Helpmann and Peter Sculthorpe.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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