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Due to the ongoing effects of closure at the Royal Opera House, information about artists is only updated periodically during this time. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Sidney Nolan



Sidney Nolan (1917–92) was one of the most acclaimed Australian artists of the 20th century. He worked prolifically as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and stage designer. For The Royal Ballet he created the designs for Kenneth MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring (1962), and for The Royal Opera for Samson et Dalila (1981) and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1987), directed by Elijah Moshinsky.

Nolan, of Irish descent, was born in Melbourne. He studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and from 1938 had the support of art patrons Sunday and John Reed. Nolan was a founder-member of the Contemporary Art Society and went on to collaborate on the influential journal Angry Penguins. From 1945 he began to created his iconic series of paintings inspired by Ned Kelly. His first theatre commission was Serge Lifar’s Icare for the De Basil Ballet in Australia. Nolan moved to Britain in 1951, where he lived for the rest of his life. His postwar stage designs include Douglas Stewart’s Ned Kelly (1956) and Harvey Breit’s The Guide (1961).

Nolan was knighted in 1981, awarded the Order of Merit in 1983 and appointed to the Australian Royal Academy in 1987. His work is housed in such galleries as the state galleries of Australia, Tate, Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

News and features

Paintings by ROH Scenic Artist to be exhibited at St Martins-in-the-Fields

3 October 2012
Paintings by ROH Scenic Artist to be exhibited at St Martins-in-the-Fields

Malcolm Key has worked with David Hockney, Pablo Picasso and Sidney Nolan during his career to date.

The artists behind opera and ballet set design

17 August 2012
The artists behind opera and ballet set design

From surrealist painters to comic book artists, the world of opera and ballet has attracted a diverse range of artists.