ART - AUSTRALIAN - SIDNEY NOLAN RETROSPECTIVE


Art historian 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.

'No', Robertson 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.'


BACK TO ART - AUSTRALIAN