#Nolan 100

No.2 - Self Portrait - Angus Trumble


No.2 - Self Portrait - Angus Trumble

"By the time he painted this self-portrait in 1988, the artist rejoiced in the style and title of Sir Sidney Nolan, OM, AC, CBE, RA. In the year of the bicentenary of European settlement of the continent “Nolan,” as he signs himself here, was by far the most eminent living Australian artist, one of relatively few who achieved and sustained an international reputation in the last century - yet he had for decades settled permanently in Britain.

The previous year Nolan had celebrated his seventieth birthday. This generated a flurry of celebratory media attention and events. Most notably, in June 1987, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne launched its Sidney Nolan, Landscapes & Legends: A Retrospective Exhibition: 1937–1987, which later toured to Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide. Also that year Brian Adams published his biography 'Sidney Nolan: Such is Life' and released a documentary film of the same title. Nolan’s stature as a public figure had never been higher.

What, then, are we to make of Nolan’s present vision of himself? The smudged inky blues, pinks and subtle browns and greys are characteristic of the artist’s late style. The face is elusive, hazy, veiled, with the head apparently hovering uncertainly between the profile and three-quarter views. The left eye is occluded - partly obscured by his spectacles. The artist’s gaze is, at the very least, averted - as much from himself as from the viewer. Ultimately, the painting is ambiguous, seeming, like all Nolan’s self-portraits, to allude simultaneously to the mask-like character of his public persona, but also to his more complex, certainly introspective poetic imagination. Any suggestion of sculptural monumentality he brings to his own, larger than life-sized head and shoulders seems to be gently mocked by the nervous stripey necktie so tightly knotted at his throat.

As my predecessor, the late Andrew Sayers has written, “To some extent the final self-portrait of 1988 is an address to those critics who saw him as having achieved nothing of greatness after Kelly. Or perhaps it was addressed to those, like his one-time friend Patrick White, who mocked what they saw as the artist’s incongruous adoption of the mask of rebellious Kelly and the cloak of English public success."

Angus Trumble has been Director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia since 2014. 

Sidney Nolan, Self-Portrait, 1988, oil on composition board,121.5 x 91.5 cm; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; Gift of The Hon. R. L. Hunter, QC, 2006. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2006.  © Sidney Nolan Trust 

No.1 - Four Abstracts - Alexander Downer

No.2 - Self Portrait - Angus Trumble

No.3 - Arabian Tree - Kendrah Morgan

No.4 Riverbend I - Francine Stock

No.5 - Desert - Andrew Logan

No.6 Dog and Duck - Jane Clark

No.7 Vivisector - Tim Abdallah

No.8 In the Cave - Rebecca Daniels

No.9 Young Soldier - Clare Woods

No.10 Ned Kelly - Shaun Gladwell

No.11 Bird - Deborah Ely

No. 12 Hare in Trap - Nicholas Usherwood

No.13 Untitled (Catani Arch, St Kilda) - David Rainey

No.14 Death of a Poet - Simon Martin

No.15 Study for Samson et Dalila - Elijah Moshinsky

No.16 Rimbaud at Harar - Edmund Capon AM OBE

No.17 Quilting the Armour - Jackie Haliday

No.18 Snake - David Walsh

No.19 Angel and the Tree - Dr Nicky McWilliam

No.20 Brian the Stockman at Wave Hill Mounting a Dead Horse - Damian Smith

No.21 Steve Hart Dressed as a Girl -Jennifer Higgie

No.22 Women and Billabong - Anthony Plant

No.23 Agricultural Hotel - Philip Mead

No.24 Policeman in a Wombat Hole - Kay Whitney

No.25 Peter Grimes - David Lipsey

No.26 Self Portrait in Youth - Barry Pearce & Duncan Fallowell

No.27 Riverbend I - Ian Dungavell

No.28 Drowned Soldier at Anzac as Icarus - Paul Gough

No.29 Thames - John Tooley

No.30 Girl - Amelda Langslow

No.31 Ned Kelly and Policeman - Daniel Crawshaw

No.32 Tarred and Feathered - Nick Cave

No.33 Self Portrait - Denise Mimmocchi

No.34 Peter Grimes's Apprentice - George Vass

No.35 The Emu Hunt - Roger Law

No.36 Luna Park - Paula Dredge

No.37 Rose in Coffee Pot - Anthony Collier

No.38 The Cardplayers - Nevin Jayawardena

No.39 Bathers - Lesley Harding

No.40 Aboriginal Girl - Jennie Milne

No.41 Pretty Polly Mine - Michael Brand

No 42. Roses in a Merric Boyd Vase - Jack Galloway

No 43. Brett Whiteley - Jonathan Watkins

No 44. Island - Nick Yelverton

No 45. Luna Park - Bill Granger

No 46. Face of the Damned - Kate McMillan

No 47. Central Australia - Leanne Santoro

No 48. Crane - Brian Adams

No 49. Myself - Simon Mundy

No 50. Going to Work, Rising Sun Hotel, 1948 - David Ferry

No 51. Figure at Harar - Andrew Turley

No 52, Greek Figures - Simon Pierse

No 53. Randolph Stow - Suzanne Falkiner

No 54. Landscape No.27 (Convalescence) - Suzanne Falkiner

No 55. Self portrait - Oliver McCall

No 56. McMurdo Sound - Mike Clements

No 57. Faun, Woman, Rider, Horse - Mark Fraser

No 58. Season in Hell (Benjamin Britten) - Anne Bean

No 59. The Slip - Humphrey Ocean

No 60. Central Australia - Chris Drury

No 61. Riverbend - Christina Slade

No 62. Head - Celia Johnson

No 63. Myth Rider - Desmond Browne

No 64. Stockman - Bridget McDonnell

No 65. Untitled (flower) - Roma Piotrowska

No 66. Chinese Landscape - Celia Perceval

No 67. Untitled - Des Hughes

No 68. Crucifixion - Rod Bugg

No 69. Icebergs - Laurence Hall

No 70. Bather in a Lily Pool - Amanda Fitzwilliams

No 71. Breaks like the Atlantic Ocean on my head - Michael Berkeley

No 72. Carcase in Swamp - Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva

No 73. Ern Malley - Isabella Boorman

No 74. Mrs Reardon at Glenrowan - Adrian Kelly

No 75. Landscape Carnarvon Range, Queensland - Catherine Noske

No 76. Abraham and Isaac - Sarah Bardwell

No 77. Rosa Mutabilis - Catherine Hunter

No 78. Artist drawing nude - Victoria Lynn

No 79. Boy and the moon - Natalie Wilson

NO 80. Explorer and Township - Helen Idle

No 81. All Tastes Like Dust in the Mouth... - Carolyn Leder

No 82. Young Boy Who Was Good at Latin - Roxy Shaw

No 83. Mrs Fraser - Anne Carter

No 84. Paradise Garden - David Oliver

No 85. Leda and the Swan - Marilyn Sweet

No 86. Burke and Wills at the Gulf - Jenny Watson

No 87. Dream of the latrine sitter - Ryan Johnston

No 88. Footballer - Gerard Vaughan

NO 89. Sketch for Ned Kelly - Amanda Fuller

NO 90. Woman in Lagoon - Jinx Nolan

No 91. Cherries in a bowl - Peter Blake

No 92. Fountain - Heywood Hill

No 93. Artist and painting - Charles Nodrum

No 94. Death of Constable Scanlon - Anita Taylor

No 95. Untitled (abstract) - David Jaffe

No 96. Digital image - Joe Studholme

No 97. Seated figure and bird - Sally Aitken

No 98. Burke and Wills expedition 'Gray sick' - Gary Sangster

No 99. Kangaroo at Ayers Rock - Pru and Anthony Napolitano

No 100. The Galaxy - Elizabeth Langslow