1 of 2 in Birds series

Sidney Nolan


May 1982, Dyes and colours with mixed media on clay coated board


76.5 x 61.5cms

Object number


Series description

During his travels in Australia, Africa, Antarctica and also China, Sidney Nolan created several paintings and drawings of animals in their natural habitat. About animals and his desire to depict them, Nolan commented:

“I feel like there’s a painting to be done with animals and natural camouflage that would be, in a sense, a no-painting; there would be a total disappearance of the image – but if you stared at it long enough the image would eventually waft up.” (Missingham, 1967)

Birds, and particularly Australian native birds, featured prominently in Nolan’s Australian desert landscapes during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The fact that he returned to this subject during the 1980s, when he was living semi-permanently in England, attests to his fascination with Australian birds. These two paintings, Bird (Birds 7) and Moor-hen (Birds 2), were created in 1982 and they are distinctly different from Nolan’s earlier representations of birds. Here the birds appear more lifelike and they are shown close-up against a white background. In many of Nolan’s earlier images, including Desert bird (1948) and Desert thorn (1953), the birds resemble mythical creatures which are airborne (often upside down) and they form an integral part of the landscape. In these two paintings the bird rather than its environment is the centre of attention.