July 21 - October 23 2022
This groundbreaking exhibition will showcase 50 works by Sir Sidney Nolan from a series never before seen in Australia.
Best known for his bold modernist work, Nolan elevated the mythology of the Australian bush to global prominence and earned himself a place among the most significant artists of the 20th century.
Yet, his response to the Holocaust has until now remained unseen and unknown.
This exhibition uncovers an important chapter in his life and work: a series of images painted with great intensity during 1961, as the Adolf Eichmann trial came to a close and as Nolan prepared to visit Auschwitz.
Nolan agonised if the intensity of suffering experienced at Auschwitz could be translated into paint.
During the televised trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, Nolan painted about a dozen portraits of the war criminal, each with subtle variations on the last – some in simple outline and others fully formed.
After Eichmann was sentenced to death, Nolan’s focus turned to the victims of the Holocaust. He began painting depictions of Auschwitz prisoners: skeletal, screaming and shrouded in smoke.
Three weeks after painting this series, Nolan visited Auschwitz, expecting to illustrate an article about the concentration camp for The Observer newspaper. But what he saw there shook him to his very core, overwhelming him so completely that he refused the commission and was unable to paint these atrocities ever again.
The 50 paintings on display at the Museum are selected from some of the last that Nolan ever painted on the subject of the Holocaust.