Sketch for Ned Kelly, 1955

Sidney Nolan, Sketch for Ned Kelly, signed 'Nolan' (lower right), signed with initial and dated '2 / 4 / 55 n' on the reverse, oil on board, 25.4 x 30.5 cm. © Sidney Nolan Trust.

Amanda Fuller is Associate Director and Head of Sale, Australian Art at Christie’s, London.

‘Kelly was not half rebel, half criminal, he was a rebel reformer. That is why he got into the language - he did something about the world.’ Sidney Nolan, 22 August 1947
“Growing up in Melbourne, I was very aware of Sidney Nolan, and the story of Ned Kelly; they are both part of the vernacular and psyche of Victoria. Now in London, Nolan, and often Kelly, continues to be very present in my career where I have had the pleasure of handling his works frequently and, most excitingly coming across hidden gems such as Sketch for Ned Kelly.
This painting from Nolan’s second Kelly series was painted in the 1950s after Nolan moved to England, where he was to reside for most of the rest of his life. The series differs from the iconic first Kelly series, mostly housed in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The colour palette shifted from the bright highly keyed colours in the 1940s pictures, to the softer and more subtle tones as seen here. He was also clearly influenced by the work he had undertaken in the years between, including his Greek landscape paintings. Interestingly, while the figure of Kelly recedes in several works from this second series, in this painting Nolan has placed the iconic black helmet front and centre in the composition. Kelly stares directly and defiantly back at the viewer through eyes that have been cleverly suggested by the veranda posts. Nolan has again invoked the powerful rebel presence of Kelly.”

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