Important Australian + International Fine Art
17 November 2010

Sidney Nolan

(1917 - 1992)

oil on board

60.0 x 50.0 cm

signed and dated lower right: NOLAN / 48

Sold for $55,200 (inc. BP) in Auction 18 - 17 November 2010, Sydney

Rupert Henderson, Sydney
Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne
Christies, Melbourne, 29 April 1997, lot 121
Private collection, Melbourne


Modern Australian Paintings, Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne, 7—27 November 1987, cat. 15 (exhibition catalogue, cover illus.)

Catalogue text

The year 1948 was a creatively important one for Sidney Nolan, the remarkably wide range of his work demonstrating his extraordinary versatility. Not only did it include the first of his Burke and Wills paintings, but also those marvellously imaginative works of outback mines such as Pretty Polly Mine (collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales), and Little Dog Mine purchased by Sir Kenneth (later Lord) Clark. To such virtuosity must be added the equally engaging outback pub series of The Dog and the Duck (originally in the collection of Mervyn Horton, founding editor of Art and Australia), and Agricultural Hotel in the University of Western Australia, Perth. Moreover, they had been preceded by the first great Ned Kelly series, and followed in 1949 by Nolan's Central Australia paintings. There were so many masterly works painted in those years that they overshadowed his lyrical flower paintings of the time.

Nolan had a great liking for flowers. They appear as moments of lyrical beauty in major 1946 Kelly paintings such as Defence of Aaron Sherritt (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), and Policemen in Wombat Hole 1946 (Nolan Gallery, Canberra). He also painted them as subjects in their own right. The Flowers 1968 (University of Western Australia) consists of 348 individual works. There is also the celebratory marathon Paradise Garden 1968-70 in the Victorian Arts Centre, of over one thousand individual paintings of native flowers and plants. Nolan had written, 'I saw the flowers springing up in Central Australia after they had lain dormant in the sand for twenty years. The pitiless wasteland throws up this extraordinary garden 'like the Paradise Gardens of the Islamic peoples.'1Flowers 1948 in the collection of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery was probably so inspired. Also dating from this year is Nolan's painting Fern (Sydney College of Advanced Education), Jane Clark noting 'Nolan's curiosity embraced the smallest and most intimate details of the tropical northern landscape. He made many plant studies: photographs, detailed notes and, later, in the studio, paintings such as this herringbone fern...'2

Flowers in a Blue Jug 1948 places European flowers and jug against a background of the Australian landscape, contrasting the exotic with the native setting. The image has its antecedents in the original Kelly painting Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly 1946 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), where a yellow vase of European flowers is given a wallpaper background of what appears to be flowers of a native variety. In his 1948 Macquarie Galleries' exhibition of Eureka Stockade paintings, Nolan included Orchids, Plant, and Vines together with two works simply titled 'Flowers'. It is tempting to identify Flowers in a Blue Jug with one of these.

1. Sidney Nolan quoted in Rosenthal, T. G., Sidney Nolan, Thames & Hudson, London, 2002, p. 207
2. Clark, J., Sidney Nolan - Landscapes and Legends: A Retrospective Exhibition 1937, 1987, International Cultural Corporation of Australia Limited, Sydney, 1987, p. 98