Record number of Ned Kelly paintings on auction market
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 9th November, 2017
Collectors will have a rare chance to obtain a piece of Australian art history when 22 of iconic modern artist Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings – the most ever to come to market – are auctioned from 5pm Sunday November 19 by Bonhams at NCJWA Hall, 111 Queen Street, Woollahra in Sydney.
The paintings are part of the 118-strong collection assigned from the estate of Nolan’s widow, Lady Mary Nolan, who died last year in the United Kingdom.
Public viewings are being held in both Melbourne and Sydney and the sale includes paintings from the 1940s to the 1980s, ranging across several of Nolan’s major periods.
Art consultant Mark Fraser, who is handling the sale on behalf of the estate, said works from Nolan’s Kelly series were always popular with collectors – with some being sold starting as low as $3000.
“These are wonderful Kelly paintings which have never before been seen on the market and they have very modest estimates,” he said.
“This auction again shows us how influential Kelly was in Nolan’s life, both from a personal perspective and as an important symbol of Australian culture and folklore.”
Fraser said the auction, which coincides with the centenary of Nolan’s birth and the 25th anniversary of his death, marked the end of an era in Australian art.
“Lady Nolan’s sad passing last year was really the closing chapter in a hugely influential artistic movement born out of the Angry Penguins and Heide,” he said.
The term the Angry Penguins refers to the group of now highly acclaimed Australian artists – that included Nolan, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker, Danila Vassilieff, John Perceval and Arthur Boyd – who lived and worked at Heide (now the Heide Museum of Modern Art) in the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen.
From 1935, Heide was the home of John and Sunday Reed who supported experimental artists, writers, poets and musicians in an endeavour to establish a progressive Australian culture.
The Angry Penguins was the fanciful title of the literary journal produced from 1943-46 by the Reeds and poet Max Harris when they were partners in the avant-garde publishing house, Reed & Harris.
Fraser said the Bonhams auction was a wonderful opportunity to secure works by one of Australia’s most revered artists, direct from his widow’s estate.
Sale highlights include Gazelle (estimate $80,000-$120,000) from about 1963 – considered one of Nolan’s best African animals – the dark and mysterious Kelly, 1964 ($100,000-$150,000) and several other more affordable Kelly paintings such as Kelly and Landscape c1965 ($20,000-$30,000) and Kelly with Rifle ($12,000-$15,000).
Other Nolan paintings include Irises ($8000-$10,000), Kangaroo at Ayres Rock c1966 ($10,000-$15,000), Landscape c1962 ($80,000-$100,000), Gallipoli Soldiers 1961, Cape Crozier, Antarctica 1964, Mrs Fraser 1958 and Paradise Garden c1970.
The auction also contains works by other leading Australian, including Aboriginal, artists and features paintings from the estate of Mary Macha – a pioneer of Australia’s indigenous arts.
Melbourne viewing is from 10am-5pm Friday November 10 to Sunday November 12 at Como House, cnr Williams Road and Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra.
Sydney viewing is from 10am-5pm Friday November 17 and Saturday November 18, from 10am-4pm Sunday November 19 at NCJWA Hall.