Mary Nolan

1926 – 2016

Mary Nolan (née Boyd) was a painter, ceramicist and photographer who became an important figure linking Australian art and British cultural life.

She was the youngest child of the artist potters Doris and Merric Boyd, and grew up in Murrumbeena, near Melbourne with her siblings Arthur, Lucy, David and Guy. The Boyd household was a magnet for creative young people during the 1940s, including the emerging painters Sidney Nolan and John Perceval.

Mary married Perceval in 1944; they had four children, Tessa, Celia, Matthew and Alice. The family moved to London in early 1963, setting up household and studio in Highgate. Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan were already based in London. Mary continued to develop her skills as a photographer and documented the increasingly famous generation of Australians emerging in London.

In 1975, divorced from Perceval, she moved to a farmhouse in Herefordshire and was later joined there by Nolan, who was looking for a retreat after the death of his second wife, Cynthia Reed. Mary and Sidney married in 1978.

During the 1980s, Mary and Sidney travelled to China, Africa, Australia and America. Mary documented their travels in diaries and photographs. In 1983 they moved to the 15th-century manor house and farm, The Rodd, straddling the Welsh border near Presteigne.

There Mary and Sidney converted the tithe barn into a gallery and concert space through the Sidney Nolan Trust, which they formed in 1985. After Sidney’s death in 1992, Mary devoted the rest of her life to developing the work of The Trust, chairing the Board of Trustees for many years. She was a staunch advocate for the organic farm on which she and Sidney had raised a prizewinning herd of Welsh Black cattle, and organised concerts, printmaking workshops (using her brother Arthur’s fine presses) and annual exhibitions of Sidney’s work.

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