# 37933

NOLAN, Sidney (1917 - 1992)

Ned Kelly with carcass, 1971 (orange crayon)

$11,000.00 AUD

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Original etching printed in sepia from Nolan’s ‘Dust’ series, 255 x 300 mm, print on sheet measuring 640 x 480 mm, the etching surrounded by a hand drawn Ned Kelly Helmet in orange and yellow chalks, signed with Nolan’s backward ‘N’. Framed in museum timber frame measuring 990 x 810 mm. An unique work incorporating etching and drawing.

Sidney Nolan’s “Dust” series of etchings is based on an earlier series of drawings he produced in London during the winter of 1954 – 55, now held in The British Museum, London (see Stephen Coppel’s ‘Out of Australia : prints and drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas’, The British Museum Press, 2011). The original series was created based on Nolan’s experience on The Birdsville Track in 1952, while he was on set for the filming of John Heyer’s The Back of Beyond for the Australian Shell Film Unit. In 1954 Nolan was appointed Australian Commissioner for the Venice Biennale, with a number of his paintings on view at the Australian Pavilion. At the same time, his series of drawings from The Back of Beyond were exhibited at the Venice Film Festival, where Heyer’s documentary won the Grand Prix. The film is part documentary and part drama, and tracks the journey of early Australian explorers in the desolate and unforgiving Australian outback. 1952 was a year of terrible drought in the Northern Territory, and six months prior to the filming by Heyer, Nolan was also commissioned to document the hardship up north by Brisbane’s Courier-Mail. The series of drawings he made there were to form his Carcass series painted in 1953, and both this series, together with the 1954 series of drawings, were revisited in “Dust” series of etchings first shown in Brisbane in 1971.

In the “Dust” series, Nolan also incorporated images from the Ned Kelly series (there are 5 Kelly images), created in 1946-47, and the Burke and Wills series, with its distinctive camels, first painted in 1948. The plates were etched in London, and printed in an edition of 60 copies at the White Ink Studio, London. The etchings are impressed with a deep bite. Nolan described his method in Elwyn Lynn’s Sidney Nolan – Australia (p.160):

‘These were done on rather thick copper plates and were etched quite deeply; There is quite a trench…I forget just how deep it was, but more than a thirty-second of an inch. It’s quite deep, so that when the ink is rolled on – or in – it comes out very embossed. You can run your fingers over it and feel a distinct bump. It looks the opposite of the scrape-method I use to get transparency; the shimmering light in the centre of Australia, by scraping back the crayons and washing with quick-drying dyes…but you still get something of the same interpenetration of light. – Sidney Nolan, 21st of April 1978′.

Interestingly, Lynn also writes that a 26th etching was also created, of two horses, but this was not exhibited as part of the series at The Johnstone Gallery.

Nolan selected a number of proofs from the ‘Dust’ series to expand into a series of Kelly heads, executed with coloured chalks, the space of Kelly’s helmet encompassing the arid Australian landscapes contained within the etchings.  The effect is a resonant hybrid of burnt umber and vivid orange, exploring Nolan’s continual fascination with the struggle of finding man’s place in the Australian landscape.


“Dust” by Sidney Nolan. Brisbane : The Johnstone Gallery, 1971

COPPEL, Stephen. ‘Out of Australia : prints and drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas’. London : The British Museum Press, 2011, pp. 34 – 38

LYNN, Elwyn. ‘Sidney Nolan – Australia’. Sydney : Bay Books, 1979, pp. 160 – 161