#NOLAN100 - NO.77

Rosa Mutabilis, 1945

Catherine Hunter

“I met Sidney Nolan in the last year of his life. His place was certain in the story of Australian art - the myth-making, the great subjects. The steel-headed Kellys, which shielded the inner life and relationships, were among the most enduring images in Australian art. And Sidney Nolan, with Mary close by this side during an Easter egg hunt with their family, was engaging, personable but not prepared to give much away about his painting. He wanted us to discover it on our own terms.

And I had the chance to rediscover Nolan much later with the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s retrospective in 2007 which I followed closely for a documentary called ‘Mask and Memory’. I remember most of those paintings and even where they hung in the space but so many of my #Nolan100 favourites have been chosen by others. However, with Nolan, the output was immense so you are spoilt for choice.

His painting Rosa Mutabilis has always resonated with me. It speaks of those life-changing years at Heide where Nolan’s painting was inseparable from his time with Sunday and John Reed. Sunday’s love of roses and her love of Nolan were encapsulated in this painting. To this day, it moves me to the core because of the heartbreak that followed for all those involved in the oft-told story of the Heide years. As with so much of Nolan’s work the apparent simplicity belies the domestic drama that lay behind it.

I gave a print to my mother and it was cherished by her. That print now hangs in my office - a constant reminder of how lucky I have been to have met artists in the course of my work."

Catherine Hunter, Australian filmmaker, journalist, television producer and director. https://www.artbrief.com.au/. Current film projects include impressionist John Peter Russell, sculptor Bronwyn Oliver and an update on her film about architect Glenn Murcutt. Her 2007 film ‘Mask and Memory: Sidney Nolan’ is available from the Sidney Nolan Trust gallery.


Sidney Nolan, Rosa Mutabilis, 1945, Ripolin on hardboard, 91.5 x 122 cm, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne © Sidney Nolan Trust

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