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Sidney Nolan: The Artist’s Materials

Paula Dredge

Sidney Nolan (1917–1992) is renowned for an oeuvre ranging from views of Melbourne’s seaside suburb St. Kilda to an iconic series on outlaw hero Ned Kelly. Working in factories from age fourteen, Nolan began his training spray painting signs on glass, which was followed by a job cutting and painting displays for Fayrefield Hats. Such employment offered him firsthand experience with commercial synthetic paints developed during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1939, having given up his job at Fayrefield in pursuit of an artistic career, Nolan became obsessed with European abstract paintings he saw reproduced in books and magazines. With little regard for the longevity of his work, he began to exploit materials such as boot polish, dyes, secondhand canvas, tissue paper, and old photographs, in addition to commercial and household paints. He continued to embrace new materials after moving to London in 1953. Oil-based Ripolin enamel is known to have been Nolan’s preferred paint, but this fascinating study certain to appeal to conservators, conservation scientists, art historians, and general readers with an interest in modern art—reveals his equally innovative use of nitrocellulose, alkyds, and other diverse materials.

Paula Dredge is head of paintings conservation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

“Bold new insights and ways of seeing the works of this iconic Australian artist.”

“This extensively researched and amply illustrated book reveals important findings about Sidney Nolan’s materials and methods, and makes a significant contribution to the understanding of his work. Its rich blend of scientific information, biographical narrative and relevant images makes it accessible to the interested reader as well as conservators and art historians. Much more than a technical guide, it is a key resource for any serious Nolan scholar.”
—Kendrah Morgan, Senior Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art

“Paula Dredge’s exhaustive technical analysis of the work of one of Australia’s greatest and most complex painters, Sidney Nolan, . . . is essential reading to anyone curious to see how a particular alchemy works to make an artist’s imagery unforgettable. Staring into her microscope with huge respect and admirable clarity of writing, the author never abandons the implication of Nolan’s mystery beyond mere methodology. Better than that, she enhances it.”
—Barry Pearce, Emeritus Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

144 pages
7 1/2 x 10 inches
73 color and 23 b/w illustrations, 3 charts
ISBN 978-1-60606-594-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute
Series: The Artist's Materials