Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1917, Sidney Nolan adopted painting as a way to break free from the physical and intellectual strictures of his conservative, colonial ubringing, becoming one of the most celebrated and influential modern artists of his generation. Inspired by the Symbolist French poet Arthur Rimbaud, Nolan rejected naturalism and realism, believing that the purpose of art was not to represent reality but to access greater truths by the 'systematic derangement of the senses'. Deriving influences from artists such as Picasso, Miro, Kandinsky, Ernst and Klee, he intentionally undermined the accepted bounaries of art by experimentation and a range of techniques, media and subject matter.
It was with his self-potrait of 1943, that Nolan finds his artistic voice as an artist who would emotionally go to war, with art as his weapon. Nolan became an artist for whom the expression of emotion and the emotional punch of his work was everything.
Sidney Nolan was knighted in 1981 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1983. He was also made a Companion of the Order of Australia, elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a member of The Royal Academy of Arts.