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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.

Sidney Nolan and Robert Helpmann at Bonython Gallery, Adelaide Arts Festival

c. 1964 (printed 2015)
Robert McFarlane

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 33.0 cm x 41.3 cm, image: 20.5 cm x 33.0 cm)

Sir Sidney Nolan AC OM CBE (1917–1992) was one of the most original and inventive Australian artists of the postwar decades, and one of few Australian artists to achieve an international reputation in the twentieth century. Born in Melbourne, Nolan studied at the National Gallery of Victoria's School of Art in 1934 and 1936. Beginning his career as a commercial artist in the 1930s, from 1938 he became associated with the modernist art patrons John and Sunday Reed at their homestead, Heide, in Heidelberg, Victoria. Nolan mounted his first solo exhibition in 1940, and two years later was conscripted into the army, serving as an army storeman in the Wimmera. Between 1946 and 1947 he made the enormously complex series of paintings of Ned Kelly for which he is best known. From 1951 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). Knighted in 1981, Nolan was awarded the Order of Merit in 1983. He was also made a Companion of the Order of Australia, elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a member of The Royal Academy of Arts. A major exhibition of Nolan's work, Sidney Nolan: A New Retrospective, held at the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Victoria in 2007–2008, brought together more than 100 of his works.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1999
© Robert McFarlane/Copyright Agency, 2021

Artist and subject

Robert McFarlane (age 22 in 1964)

Sidney Nolan (age 47 in 1964)

Sir Robert Helpmann CBE (age 55 in 1964)

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 both past and present.

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

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency