Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 August 2013


(1917 - 1992)

Ripolin enamel on composition board

63.5 x 76.0 cm

$70,000 - 90,000
Sold for $72,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 30 - 28 August 2013, Sydney

The Estate of Sir Sidney Nolan, United Kingdom
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 16 September 2001, lot 58
Private collection, Sydney


Nolan's Nolans: A Reputation Reassessed, Agnew's, London, 11 June – 25 July 1997, cat. 25 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)

Catalogue text

Sidney Nolan grew up in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda. He attended the Brighton Road State School, and enjoyed the carefree existence of the beach and the many attractions St Kilda offered. Returning to St Kilda in the forties, he recaptured, in lively reminiscence, paintings redolent of his childhood. His two Constructivist 1941 paintings, Luna Park, featured the fun of the 'Big Dipper'. Ferris Wheel, 1945 is in the collection of Heide Museum of Modern Art Gallery, Melbourne. The Giggle Palace, 1945 shows the young Nolan with parents and beach backdrop, and Under the Pier, 1945 (Nolan Gallery, near Canberra) the sheer joy of playing in the sea. While Brighton Road Sate School, 1944 (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide) drew upon his recollections of the primary school he attended as a child, he also ventured into contemporary events as in Fire, Palais de Danse, 1945. Whereas in Full Back, St Kilda, 1946 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) he revealed himself as a true Melburnian in its addiction to football. Each of these paintings, in their different ways, is realized as a work of child art, of that visual innocence which leads to wonderment. Naively styled with all the imaginative power and directness that is so convincing, it is mastered by the artist of extraordinary creative gifts - the natural painter.

The paradox lies in their sophistication and lyricism, the clever handling of perspective and proportion to give both an illusion of the naive and of naivety itself. Take proportion and the way in which things or persons of importance are presented larger in scale than others. (As we all recall, things looked bigger when we were children.) For Nolan it becomes an inventive tool, as in St Kilda Pier (Dark Head), c1944-45, the back view of the head ever enigmatic against a field of opalescent blues. Although we do not know who this person is, she was for Nolan important. Her size tells us so - perhaps part of the gestation of the Ned Kelly head of later works? The viewer can adopt the figure for him or herself and escape into a wonderland of reminiscence. Or might it be a member of an audience viewing life as presented on stage? The similarly enigmatic objects look somewhat like the flats of a theatre set. Reflecting on some others of these early paintings, Nolan said, 'Seeing these pictures again is a bit like looking into a pool and seeing your own reflection - memory puts ripples across it. The people who inspired some of the images, one no longer sees, and so it's interesting to remember them again from the images - '.1

1. Sidney Nolan, 'Down Under on a Visit', Queen, London, 15 May 1962, quoted in Clark, J., Sidney Nolan Landscapes and Legends, a retrospective exhibition: 1937-1987, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 65