Mrs Reardon at Glenrowan, 1946

Sidney Nolan, Mrs Reardon at Glenrowan, 1946, Ripolin on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Gift of Sunday Reed, 1977.

Adrian Kelly, Curator, Glebe House and Gallery, County Donegal, Ireland.

“I like the contrast of the beautifully sublime landscapes and the harsher superimposed figures in Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings and I love the tales they tell.

When it came to Ned Kelly there was no need to let the truth get in the way of a good story; accounts of his actions were fantastic enough.

In ‘Mrs Reardon at Glenrowan’ we see Margaret Reardon running from the burning Glenrowan Hotel, with her baby Bridget in her arms. The hotel was on fire because the police, believing the entire Kelly Gang to be inside, had set it on fire. They weren’t all inside the hotel, some had gone to get tools to derail the train coming from Bealla. The hotel was full of hostages and Dan Kelly was going to release them but the owner wouldn’t let him, she said “No, Ned wants to give a lecture first”. Dan did open the doors but there was a gunfight and some civilians were injured. The baby blanket was used as evidence at the Royal Commission and it had a burn hole where the bullet passed through. Neither Margaret nor her baby were injured but one of her other children, a son called Michael, was shot and injured.

I showed a series of Nolan’s Ned Kelly prints in Donegal, in the Northwest of Ireland several years ago and was surprised when a friend of mine told me that she was related to the Reardons. It made me feel closer to the pictures.

Sidney Nolan was a fantastic painter, and it’s often difficult to stop such gifted technique from getting in the way of a good painting. It didn’t bother Nolan much.”

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