Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly c.1973, based on the painting of the same name, 1946 woven wool tapestry, Manufactura de Tapecarias de Portalegre, Portugal, label verso, inventory no. 1479 288.0 x 402.0cm (113 3/8 x 158 1/4in).
EXHIBITED Sidney Nolan, paintings and tapestries, David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, 6-24 November 1973 Five tapestries by Sidney Nolan, David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, 4-22 March 1977
LITERATURE Daniel Thomas 'Upending European tradition', Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March 1975, p. 4
In 1945, while still working on St Kilda subject matter, Nolan began formulating his Ned Kelly series culminating in the iconic paintings of 1946 47. In October 1946 he painted Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and the basis for the present tapestry.
Nolan increasingly became attracted to dramatic, large scale, artworks in the 1960s and in 1969 began his Oceania series including the 1620 individual paintings that constitute the monumental Snake (in the collection of MONA, Hobart), a project which occupied him for almost four years. It was during this time that he created the Kelly tapestries, also imposing in scale.
Based on the experience of Arthur Boyd and John Olsen, Nolan selected the Manufactura de Tapecarias de Portalegre in Portugal to hand weave the tapestries using traditional techniques. Of the six paintings he selected five were from the first Kelly series (given to the Australian National Gallery, as it was then, in 1977 by Sunday Reed) and the sixth, Kelly and Horse, that he owned himself until it was donated to the Nolan Gallery, Lanyon, in 1974.
Four of the tapestries were completed in time for the David Jones' Art Gallery exhibition in November 1973 and a fifth tapestry was included when the series was exhibited there again in March 1975. The following year a sixth image, Siege and burning at Glenrowan, was added to the group. Only The Trial is known to have been woven in an edition of two. The tapestries made were: Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly (the present work); Glenrowan (in the collection of Benalla Art Gallery); The Trial (edition of 2 of which one is in the collection of the Federal Court of Australia, Sydney); Death of Constable Scanlon; Kelly and Horse (in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogued as Ned Kelly); and Siege and burning at Glenrowan.
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