Sidney Nolan
Desert and Drought

I wanted to deal ironically with the cliché of the "dead heart"; I wanted to know the true nature of the "otherness" I had been born into. It was not a European thing. I wanted to paint the great purity and implacability of the landscape. I wanted a visual form of the "otherness" of the thing not seen.

Sidney Nolan, quoted in Elwyn Lynn and Sidney Nolan, Sidney Nolan – Australia, Bay Books, Sydney, 1979, p. 13.

Sidney Nolan is widely acknowledged as Australia’s most inventive and influential artist of the twentieth century. Although he has been the subject of three major retrospective exhibitions – 1957 (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London), 1967 (Art Gallery of New South Wales and national tour) and 1987 (National Gallery of Victoria and national tour) – there have been few opportunities to examine in detail the significance of his images of the Australian outback. From 1949 to 1953 Nolan created extraordinary images of inland Australia. These included aerial views of desert and mountain ranges, powerful narratives of the Burke and Wills expedition, images of religion, and drought stricken landscapes. Nolan’s unique vision and technique of enamel paint and oil on composition board, glass and paper, astonished local audiences and launched his international career.

Sidney Nolan: Desert and Drought includes 177 paintings, drawings and photographs from public, corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas. Many of these have not been seen since their initial exhibition 50 years ago and the majority of Nolan’s photographs are being shown for the first time.


06 Jun 200317 Aug 2003 The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square
Twentieth – Twenty-First Century Australian Art (Gallery 14), Level 3, NGVA
Twentieth – Twenty-First Century Australian Art (Gallery 14), Level 3, NGVA