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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 (1917-1992) was the most original and inventive Australian artist of the postwar decades, and was one of the few Australian artists to have achieved an international reputation in the twentieth century. Beginning his career as a commercial artist in the 1930s, he mounted his first solo exhibition in 1940. After having served as an army storeman in the Wimmera, he became associated with the modernist art patrons John and Sunday Reed at Heide, Victoria. At Heide between 1945 and 1947 he made the enormously complex series of paintings of Ned Kelly for which he is best known. From 1950 Nolan lived abroad, but returned to Australia at regular intervals. He continued to explore Australian themes and landscapes in paintings of Burke and Wills, Eliza Fraser, Gallipoli and the Eureka rebellion, and in his huge masterpiece Riverbend (1965). A major retrospective of Nolan’s 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.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Hon RL Hunter QC 2006
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Sidney Nolan

Accession number: 2006.3

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Sidney Nolan (age 71 in 1988)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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, 1962 (printed 2000) David Moore
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia, 1962 (printed 2000) David Moore
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia, 1962 (printed 2000) David Moore
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia, 1962 (printed 2000) David Moore

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.

Self portrait, 1988 Sidney Nolan
Self portrait, 1988 Sidney Nolan
Self portrait, 1988 Sidney Nolan
Self portrait, 1988 Sidney Nolan

Self Creation

Magazine article by Andrew Sayers AM, 2006

Former National Portrait Gallery Director, Andrew Sayers recalls meeting iconic Australian artist Sidney Nolan.

 

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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.