Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 April 2010

Sidney Nolan

(1917 - 1992)

oil on canvas

152.0 x 121.5 cm

signed, dated and inscribed lower right: nolan / 16.11.88 / ARTHUR BOYD / AT FITZROY FALLS

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $60,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 14 - 28 April 2010, Melbourne

Private collection, London
Private collection, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne


Archibald Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 December 1988 – 29 January 1989


Pearce, B., Sidney Nolan, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, p. 253
Ross, P., Let's Face It: The History of the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2001 (revised edition), p. 92 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Arthur Boyd at Fitzroy Falls, was Sidney Nolan's entry for the 1988 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This was the first and only time he entered the portrait prize; a fevered journalist reported at the time that 'it was widely held to be the favourite'.1 But calamity struck when a disgruntled entrant successfully appealed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales to have the painting disqualified on the grounds that, contrary to the rules of the competition, Nolan had not been an Australian resident for the twelve months prior to entering his work. A compromise was eventually reached and Arthur Boyd at Fitzroy Falls, was hung with the finalists though not judged.

Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd are widely considered to be two of the most significant artists in twentieth century Australian art, but it is not widely known that they were also the greatest of friends for much of their adult lives. Much of their relationship is undocumented, recently one scholar noted: 'Nolan claimed Arthur as his closest friend. But only a scant correspondence between the two exists.'2 Still, one cannot underestimate the significance when in 1978 Nolan married Arthur Boyd's sister Mary, then Mary Perceval. Arthur and Yvonne Boyd acted as witnesses at the intimate ceremony.

Despite their enduring friendship there seems to be very few portraits of Boyd painted by Nolan. Soldier, Arthur Boyd, 1959 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra is a notable example.

In the present work Nolan has made Boyd recognisable by his distinguished white hair and has placed his sitter at Fitzroy Falls. Fitzroy Falls is a popular tourist location not far from Bundanon at the head of the Shoalhaven valley. Undoubtedly, this was an area they had visited together during Nolan's long visits at Bundanon as it was one of Boyd's favourite landmarks. It appears regularly in his later oeuvre and Waterfall in the Shoalhaven Valley, 1982, is a prime example. But Fitzroy Falls is also used as a pictorial device in other works such as Woman and Waterfall, 1974 -75, here Boyd has reduced and transformed the falls to relate to his figure subjects.

By framing his subject within this location Nolan depicts Boyd not only in an actual landscape that was dear to the artist, he also places him within one of Boyd's own motifs. Ultimately, Arthur Boyd at Fitzroy Falls is a homage to the sitter.

1. Ansell, K., 'Nolan's Entry Barred from Archibald Prize', The Age, 15 December 1988, p. 5
2. Underhill, N., Nolan on Nolan, Penguin Viking, Melbourne, 2007, p. 253