Nolan estate paintings auction a rare opportunity for art lovers

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 9th October, 2014

Art lovers will have a fantastic opportunity to acquire a Sir Sidney Nolan painting for as little as $3000 when Bonhams auctions important later works by the artist from his estate from 6.30pm Monday October 13 at Como House in South Yarra.

Considering that Nolan’s painting entitled First Class Marksman sold in March 2010 for $5.4 million (still the highest price for a work of Australian art at auction and bought by the Art Gallery of New South Wales) through Menzies Art Brands, this is a rare chance for art enthusiasts to become part of history.

The largest exhibition of Nolan paintings since the 1960s, all 119 works are from the private collection of his third wife Lady Mary Nolan and predominantly cover his final period until his death in 1992.

The final painting in the auction – and the last he ever did – is a work called Shot 1991 featuring a wounded Ned Kelly, his guns raised in a final gesture of defiance.

It was probably fitting that this was his last painting, given Nolan’s lifelong fascination with the notorious bushranger.

Bonham’s chairman Mark Fraser said many of the works had not been viewed in public for many years and included rare Ned Kelly paintings from the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s – along with works from other major series such as his African paintings, Gallipoli soldiers and Adelaide Women.

“The African paintings of the early 1960s – featuring people, animals and surrounds from Africa – were very popular with the British Royal family at the time and several of his works were purchased by the Queen and Prince Phillip,” he said.

On his return to Australia, again in the early 1960s, Nolan attended several of the garden parties at the Adelaide Festival where he encountered women decked out in fancy hats.

His Adelaide Women paintings reflect their dress and capture their personalities – and are perhaps further inspired by the writings of Patrick White, with whom he was a good friend at the time.

Many of Nolan’s paintings were used to illustrate the dust covers of White’s novels and, when the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was Sidney Nolan whom he sent to receive it. 

Unfortunately, in the mid-1970s the two had a massive and very public falling out and were still enemies when Nolan died.

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