ART - AUSTRALIAN - SIDNEY NOLAN RETROSPECTIVE
Humphrey McQueen writes:
Yet another Sid Nolan
Retrospective opens tonight in the Art Gallery of New South Wales,
before touring to Melbourne and Brisbane. The following four anecdotes
give some flavour of the artist and the man.
- Manning Clark was
rounding up signatures for a statement in support of the Republic. He
asked Arthur Boyd what Nolan might think of the idea. 'Oh, Manning, you
know Iíve known Sid for forty years and Iíve heard him talk a very
great deal about almost every conceivable subject, but Iím afraid
Iíve no idea what he thinks.'
- Nolan was making
another of his tax-exempting donations to the nation, this time from his
Great Wall of China series, which have a few lines scrawled across vast,
otherwise vacant canvases. On inspecting the gift, the Deputy Chair of
the Visual Arts Board, Michael Shannon, remarked: 'These canít have
taken you long, Sid.'
'Iíve better things
to do with my time than paint.'
- Nolan fell victim to
Patrick Whiteís venom in the writerís 1981 memoirs, soon known as Claws
in the Arse. Among the accusations were 'the chase after recognition
by one who did not need it, the cameras, the public birthdays'. In
response, Nolan caricatured White and his lover, Manoly Lascaris, in a
diptych, titled Nightmare.
Commenting on the brawl, the director of Londonís Whitechapel
Galleries where Nolan had enjoyed his first retrospective in 1957, Bryan
Robertson, announced: 'Theyíre just a couple of ice cold old queens
hacking away at each other.'
'But Sidís not gay,'
one of Robertsonís listeners responded.
proceeded, 'But heíd do anything if you praised him.'
- Shortly afterwards, White was tickled pink to hear that another painter referred to Nolan as 'the Bing Crosby of Australian art.' The night that Nolan inherited the Order of Merit from Lord Clark of Civilisation, White was telling friends: 'I see that Bing Crosby has got the OM. That was the only British honour worth considering, and now theyíve ruined that.'