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Sidney Nolan, b.1917

The Wild Geese I1989

Australia’s most famous twentieth century painter, Sidney Nolan is most frequently remembered for his paintings of the bush outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang. Kelly, like Nolan, was Irish-Australian and it was Nolan’s strong Irish connections that led him to visit this country several times and to paint the ‘Wild Geese’ series of paintings.

The title of the series refers to the many Irish soldiers who fled to Europe after the failed Jacobite wars of the 1690s to fight in European armies rather than surrender to King William of Orange. One of these, Captain Moses, returning to recruit for those foreign armies, was arrested and hanged in Dublin for treason in 1720.

Sidney Nolan closely identified with those exiles and painted his ‘Wild Geese’ series representing well-known Irish exiles and wanderers such as James Joyce and Ernest Shackleton and even casting himself in the role of Captain Moses. The thick impasto paint and the brutal simplification of features and colours reinforce the impression that these are people to be reckoned with.

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions152.4 x 121.92 cm
Credit LineIMMA Collection: Donated by the artist, 1991
Item NumberIMMA.24
Not on view
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Image Caption
Sidney Nolan, The Wild Geese I, 1989, Oil on canvas, 152.4 x 121.92 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donated by the artist, 1991

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: info@imma.ie.

About the Artist

Sidney Nolan 1917–1992

Australia’s most famous 20th century painter Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) attended the National Gallery of Victoria School of Art. Nolan began his best known series of paintings on the theme of Ned Kelly in 1945. Based in London from 1953, he travelled extensively in Europe, Africa, China and Antarctica. Nolan also made several visits to Ireland. Six of his Wild Geese series, inspired by the flight of Irish Jacobite soldiers in the 1690s, were donated to the IMMA Collection on the foundation of the Museum in 1991. Nolan’s Ned Kelly series was exhibited at IMMA in 2012. — View Artist »