Michel Lawrence’s iconic portrait of Sid Nolan is the feature image for the just released, new hour-long documentary on the life of Nolan.
Nolan has been described as one of Australia’s most important artists of the 20th century. The distinguished former Curator of Australian Art at the The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Barry Pearce, said of him: “He is probably the greatest iconographer of the spirit of Australia and its relationship to the planet!”
The film simply titled, ‘Nolan’ is a joint ABC/BBC collaboration and features interviews with some of Nolan’s closest friends and relatives to unearth new and compelling stories about his life and times.
The Nolan image was taken by Michel Lawrence in 1987 at Rob Imhoff’s South Yarra studio. The portrait depicts Nolan holding a cut-out cardboard version of Kelly’s legendary ‘postbox style’ steel helmet, which featured in most of Nolan’s famous series of Kelly Gang paintings.
Kelly’s armour, including the trademark helmet, was originally made with the help of local blacksmiths using old of steel from plough shares.
The Kelly Gang paintings were originally produced in the kitchen at Heide, now The Museum of Modern Art at Heide. The original paintings were later gifted to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra by the then owners of Heide, John and Sunday Reed and were the subject of a bitter dispute between the Reeds and Nolan.
Nolan revisited his paintings of the Kelly Gang numerous times.
Michel’s original photo of Nolan holding the cut-out mask was first exhibited in two major exhibitions at Australian Galleries, first in Melbourne and then Sydney. The photo was then reproduced in the book Framed – Photographs of Australian Artists, published by Hardie/Grant in 1998.
The portrait was again exhibited, at The National Gallery of Australia , Canberra during 2016 with Nolan’s Riverbend series. It was then exhibited again at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, as part of a joint exhibition of John Kelly’s paintings (no relation to the Kelly Gang) which had been heavily influenced by Nolan, along with a series of original Nolan works owned by the show’s curator Dr Damian Smith.
Michel Lawrence’s Nolan portrait is in the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art at Heide.
The film Nolan was produced by Flaming Star and was directed by Sally Aitken.
You can view the film Nolan on ABC iView: