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Sidney Nolan, Burnt out Boat on Bed of Thames, 1967, colour and lead pencil on paper, 28 x 21.5 cm

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), Burnt out Boat on Bed of Thames, 1967, Papers of Sidney Nolan,, © Sidney Nolan Trust.

Painter, illustrator, printmaker and set designer Sir Sidney Nolan OM, AC (1917–1992) is one of Australia’s most significant modernist artists.

A member of the artistic and literary avant-garde group the Angry Penguins, Nolan spent much of the 1940s with art patrons John and Sunday Reed at their home, Heide, where they gathered a circle of like-minded artists, writers and intellectuals. It was during this time that Nolan painted the first of his Ned Kelly series, which has become inextricably linked with the life of the bushranger in the Australian mind.

Sidney Nolan, template for painting 'Boy and the Moon', 1939-1940,

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), Cut out stencil reminiscent of Boy and the Moon [Moonboy], from a page of Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, 15 June 1964, c. 1964, Papers of Sidney Nolan,, © Sidney Nolan Trust.

The Papers of Sidney Nolan OM, AC

The National Library of Australia is the custodian of Sidney Nolan’s private papers. This extraordinary archive contains personal correspondence, including with his mother, Dora; dozens of personal diaries and notebooks; business correspondence with galleries and publishing houses; financial records pertaining to art supplies and the sale of his paintings; research notes for his artwork, including the Eureka Stockade mural commissioned by the Reserve Bank of Australia; and photographs, press clippings, postcards and catalogues.

Among the most fascinating items are thousands of polaroids, which reflect Nolan’s fascination with seeing the world in different ways. Tucked into diaries are small objects that captured Nolan’s interest and aesthetic eye— a feather here, a leaf there—with notes about where he had found them.

Many of these items are too fragile for handling without preservation work, and the collection itself is vast and difficult for researchers to navigate.

Nolan diary

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), 1964 Appointment diary, Papers of Sidney Nolan,, © Sidney Nolan Trust.

Why do we need your help?

The National Library is raising funds to preserve and improve access to the Papers of Sidney Nolan. More than 160 boxes contain items that require rehousing and description. Selective digitisation will allow online access through Trove and provide researchers with a rare insight into the mind of this prolific artist.

Your contribution will make a significant difference to the work we do.

How to donate


Donate online using the button above or phone the Development Office on 02 6262 1336 to make a donation. Donations over $2 are tax deductible.

This appeal closes on 31 July 2017. Any donations received after this date will be directed towards The National Library of Australia Fund, which supports conservation and digitisation of the Library's collection.