Nolan is arguably Australia’s most significant and internationally acclaimed artist. Kenneth Clark refers to him as one of the major artists of the 20th century. He is well known for dramatic shifts between dark, moody themes and bright, uplifting creations. Always fresh and spontaneous, he never relied upon one style or technique but rather experimented throughout his lifetime with many different methods of application, and also devised some of his own.

He commenced formal training twice through the National Gallery of Victoria School of Art, but felt compelled to educate himself instead. One of his greatest influences was the French Romantic poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose image has been interpreted frequently in many of Nolan’s paintings. A love of music and literature is evident in many of his works, both thematically and visually.

Several themes are captured in separate periods and series of works such as Gallipoli, The St Kilda period, Dimboola, Leda and the Swan, and the Sonnets. But perhaps the most powerful and recurrent imagery is his iconic depictions of  Ned Kelly, the idealistic bushranger and murderer well known in Australian folklore. This series began in 1945 and continued to surface in different techniques throughout Nolan’s lifetime.

An avid traveller, Nolan spent time in Greece and America and continued to visit Australia from his London base every year from the 1970s.

Nolan’s work continues to inspire much academic and aesthetic thought, discussion and writing today and his images are reproduced extensively throughout the world.

1917 Born in Melbourne
1917-31 Lived in bayside St Kilda
1932 Enrolled in Prahran Technical College Department of Arts and Crafts
1934 Attended night classes at the NGV Art School. Spent much time in the Public Library reading room studying European Modernists
1938 Met art patrons John and Sunday Reed. Became a foundation member of the Contemporary Art Society. Married Elizabeth Patterson
1940 Designed décor for the Ballet Russe production of  'Icare' at the Theatre Royal, Sydney
1942-44 Conscripted into the Army, stationed in the Wimmera. Went absent-without-leave in July 1944
1945 Embarked on first Ned Kelly paintings and drawings
1946 Travelled through 'Kelly country' in north-eastern Victoria and painted his well known series of  Ned Kelly paintings, now in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1947 Travelled to Queensland, including Fraser Island, Bundaberg, Cairns, Port Douglas and Cape York
1948 Married Cynthia Reed. Travelled in Central, Far North and Western Australia
1950-51 Travelled in Central Australia, and overseas for the first time to England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy
1952 Commissioned by the Brisbane Courier Mail to make drawings of devastated outback drought lands, toured desert areas
1953 Visited remote inland Australia and the Birdsville Track. Returned to Europe where he based his career from then on
1956 Spent some months on Hydra, Greece. Visited Gallipoli peninsula
1957 Studied engraving and lithography at 'Atelier 1' in Paris
1958 Awarded a two-year Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship to 'record the American scene'. Travelled throughout the USA, returning to London in 1960
1961-62 Travelled to Egypt and Africa
1964 Arrived in Sydney to join a US Navy expedition to Antarctica with writer Alan Moorehead
1965 Awarded Creative Arts Fellowship, Australian National University, Canberra. Travelled to Queensland, New Guinea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, China. Moved to New York
1971 Travelled to Australia for the Adelaide Festival, visited Alice Springs and the Olgas
1972-75 Travelled extensively
1976 Wife Cynthia Nolan died
1977 Announced gift of 252 'Gallipoli' paintings to the nation through the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Sunday Reed presented her 25 'Ned Kelly' paintings of 1946-47 to the National Gallery of Australia
1978 Married Mary Boyd in London
1982 'Paradise Garden' series I of 136 frames installed in the Concert Hall stalls foyer of the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne
1983 Sir Sidney and Lady Nolan purchased 'The Rodd' on the Welsh border of Herefordshire
1984 Visited Australia and Ireland
1985 Elected Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York. Acquired the five hundred acres of farmland surrounding 'The Rodd' and establishes the Sidney Nolan Trust. Also purchased 'Earie Park' jointly with Arthur Boyd, a property with 14km of river frontage on the Shoalhaven in NSW
1986 Announced his gift of approximately 50 paintings to the people of Ireland
1989 Presented 'Earie Park' property to the Federal Government of Australia
1991 Elected to the Royal Academy, London
1992 Died in London

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1942 First one-man exhibition at Sheffield's Newsagency, Heidelberg
1943 Contemporary Art Society, Melbourne
1948 Moreton Galleries, Brisbane
1948 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
1948 'The Kelly Paintings', Velasquez Gallery, Melbourne
1949 'Queensland Outback Paintings', David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney
1949 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
1949 Maison de l'Unesco, Paris, 27 Kelly paintings
1950 'Central Australian Landscapes', David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney
1951 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
1952 Stanley Coe Gallery, Melbourne
1952 Royal South Australian Society of Arts, Adelaide
1953 'Drought Paintings', Peter Bray Gallery, Melbourne
1953 David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney
1955 Redfern Gallery, London
1956 Durlacher Bros, New York
1957 Retrospective Exhibition, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1960 'Leda and the Swan', Matthieson Gallery, London
1961 Retrospective Exhibition, Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
1962 Durlacher Bros, New York
1963 'Sidney Nolan, African Journey', Marlborough Fine Art, London
1964 'Recent African Paintings', Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide
1965 Marlborough Fine Art, London
1967 'Sidney Nolan Retrospective Exhibition, Paintings from 1937 to 1967', Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of Western Australia
1968 Marlborough Fine Art, London
1970 'Retrospective Exhibition', The Arts Centre, New Metropole, Folkesone 
1970 'Sidney Nolan, Paradise Garden', National Gallery of Victoria
1972 'Paradise Garden', Tate Gallery, London
1973 Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo
1974 'Ern Malley and Paradise Garden', Art Gallery of South Australia, opened by Prime Minister Gough Witlam
1975 Marlborough Fine Art, London
1975 'Nolan at Lanyon', Lanyon homestead, south of Canberra
1976 Moderna Museat, Stockholm
1976 Pieter Wenning Gallery, Johannesburg
1978 'Nolan's Gallipoli', Australian War Memorial, Canberra
1979 Marlborough Fine Art, London
1980 'Sidney Nolan works on paper retrospective', Nolan Gallery, 'Lanyon'
1981 'Sidney Nolan's China', Art Gallery of New South Wales
1981 'The Ned Kelly Paintings 1946-47 by Sidney Nolan', Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, inaugural exhibition
1982 Singapore National Museum and Art Gallery
1982 Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, London
1983 Grosvenor Museum, Chester
1983 'Sidney Nolan: the city and the plain', National Gallery of Victoria
1985 'Sidney Nolan: Bourke and Wills', S H Ervin Gallery, Sydney
1986 'Nolan's Wimmera', National Gallery of Victoria, travelling exhibition
1987 'Sir Sidney Nolan: Landscapes and Legends. A Retrospective Exhibition 1937-1987', National Gallery of Victoria, touring Sydney, Perth and Adelaide
1988 'Nolan's Fraser', Queensland Art Gallery
1989 'Sidney Nolan's Drawings', National Gallery of Australia
1991 Retrospective exhibition, The Sidney Nolan Trust, 'The Rodd', Herefordshire
1991 'Sidney Nolan: Burning at Glenrowan', National Gallery of Australia, touring regional NSW and Victoria
1992 Tate Gallery, London. 75th birthday celebration exhibition

Selected Group Exhibitions

1940-46 Contemporary Art Society Annual Exhibitions
1946 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Competitions, Art Gallery of NSW
1948 The Sydney Group, David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney
1948-50 Contemporary Art Society Annual Exhibitions
1949-52 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Competitions, Art Gallery of NSW
1952, 53 Blake Prize, Mark Foy's Art Gallery, Sydney
1952, 53 Society of Artists Annual Exhibitions, David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney
1953 'Twelve Australian Artists', Arts Council of Great Britain, New Burlington Galleries, London, then to the Venice Biennale of 1954
1953 'A Retrospective Exhibition of Australian Painting', Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
1954 'Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker', International Press Club, Rome
1957 Contemporary Australian Painters, touring Canada
1961 '1940-1945', Museum of Modern Art of Australia, Melbourne
1962 'Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary', Adelaide, Perth, London (Tate Gallery), Ottawa, Vancouver
1962 'Rebels and Precursors: Aspects of Australian Painting in Melbourne 1937-1947', National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of NSW
1984 'The Great Decades of Australian Art: Selected Masterpieces from the JGL Collection', National Gallery of Victoria
1985 'Recalling the Fifties: British Painting and Sculpture 1950-60', Arts Council of Great Britain, Serpentine Gallery, London
1988 'European and Australian Paintings from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection', S H Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Awards and Commendations 

1958 Awarded a two-year Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship
1963 Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to art in Britain
1965 Creative Arts Fellowship, Australian National University, Canberra
1968 Honorary Doctorate of Law, Australian National University, Canberra
1969 Britannica Australia Award for contributions to arts, science and humanities
1971 Honorary Doctorate of Literature, University of London
1974 Honorary Doctorate, Leeds University
1977 Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Sydney
1981 Knighted for services to art
1983 Order of Merit
1988 Companion of the Order of Australia

Collections

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
Australian National University, Canberra
University Art Museum, University of Queensland
University of Western Australia, Perth
Nolan Gallery, 'Lanyon'
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Performing Arts Museum, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne
Reserve Bank of Australia
The Holmes a Court Collection
ICI Collection
Wesfarmers Collection, Perth
Tate Gallery, London
Hong Kong Land, Exchange Square, Hong Kong
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Private collections in Australia and overseas

Selected Bibliography

Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings from 1947 to 1957 (exh. cat. by K. Clark and C. MacInnes, London, Whitechapel A.G., 1957) 
C. MacInnes, K. Clark and B. Robertson, Sidney Nolan (London, 1961) 
N. Barber, Conversations with Painters (London, 1964), pp. 83-100 
R. Melville, Ned Kelly, 27 Paintings by Sidney Nolan (London, 1964) 
E. Lynn, Sidney Nolan: Myth and Imagery (London, 1967) 
Sidney Nolan Retrospective Exhibition: Paintings from 1937 to 1967 (exh. cat., ed. H. Missingham; Sydney, AGNSW, 1967) 
Sidney Nolan Retrospective Exhibition (exh. cat., ed. K. Clark; Dublin, Royal Dublin Soc., 1973) 
M. Gilchrist, Nolan at Lanyon (Canberra, 1976, rev. 3/1985)
E. Lynn, Sidney Nolan: Australia (Sydney, 1979) 
R. Haese, Rebels and Precursors: The Revolutionary Years of Australian Art (Melbourne, 1981), pp. 1-2, 86, 129-30, 199-200, 265-6, 288-90 
G. Fry, Nolan's Gallipoli (Adelaide, 1983) 
Sidney Nolan, The City and the Plain (exh. cat. by R. Haese, J. Minchin and P. McCaughey, Melbourne, N.G. Victoria, 1983) 
E. Lynn and B. Semler, Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly (Canberra, 1985)
B. Adams, Sidney Nolan: Such Is Life, a Biography (Melbourne, 1987) 
J. Clark, Sidney Nolan: Landscapes and Legends: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1937-1987 (exh. cat., Melbourne, N.G. Victoria, 1987, rev. 1987) [comprehensive bibliog. and exhibition listing] 

Sources:
Jane Clark, Sidney Nolan: Landscapes and Legends, International Cultural Corporation of Australia, Sydney, 1987
T.G. Rosenthal, Sidney Nolan, Thames and Hudson, London, 2002