This is Kelly the defiant. I put Kelly on top of the horse in a particularly orderly manner. I wanted an air of perfect authority. It looks simple but I wanted the maximum feeling of space, so the cloud appears through the aperture in the mask.
– Sidney Nolan.
Thought I would kick this blog off with a quintessential Australian artwork by one of Australia’s most famous and important artists depicting an Australian icon. Ned Kelly, the notorious bushranger (horse riding bandit), needs no introduction to Australians, but for uninitiated international audiences: Kelly represents the unyielding anti-authoritarian spirit beloved by Australian national mythology.
Sidney Nolan has said that his three inspirations for the Kelly series are the words of Kelly, the influence of Rousseau and sunlight. Nolan’s focus on sunlight best exemplifies the significance of the Ned Kelly series beyond its primary historical subject. Nolan is as much concerned with rendering the unique Australian landscape as he is capturing the irreverent outlaw. Nolan says the Kelly saga was ‘a story arising out of the bush and ending in the bush’:
I find the desire to paint the landscape involves a wish to hear more of the stories that take place in the landscape … which persist in the memory, to find expression in such household sayings as “game as Ned Kelly”.