IT was one of those occasions, as director of the National Gallery of Australia Ron Radford pointed out, when every Australian would want to claim a little bit of Irish in them—himself included.
As “CityNews” predicted yesterday, the gallery announced today that the “Ned Kelly” series by Sidney Nolan will travel to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and Radford joined with Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia, Noel White, in watching the gallery’s handlers start to pack out the 26 paintings which would be on their way by the afternoon.
“It’s no small thing to let these go,” Radford said, noting that the series was one of the most popular in the gallery and though it would be replaced for the interim by Albert Tucker’s 1940s series “Images of modern evil,” the Ned Kellys would be greatly missed.
Additionally, the beautiful oval gallery, reminiscent of the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris where Monet’s waterlily paintings are exhibited, had proved one of the brilliant successes of the gallery’s extensions and was perfectly designed, he said, for telling a quintessentially “Australian narrative” in a “flowing” way.
Radford pointed out that Nolan had a close attachment to Ireland and had donated paintings from his “Wild Geese” series to the Irish Museum of Modern Art at its founding in 1991. “The series, its artist and subject – Nolan and Kelly – highlight…the deep historical and cultural links that bind Ireland and Australia,” he added.
Deborah Hart, Senior Curator of Australian Paintings and Sculpture post-1920, could hardly conceal her excitement. She’ll be travelling for the first time to Dublin among the packing crates, accompanying some of the works. Hart is fascinated by the Irish aspects of the Kelly story – especially the fact that the condemning judge in his Melbourne trial was Justice Redmond Barry, another Irishman, but from the Anglo-Irish ascendancy.
The Kellys were downtrodden, poor Irish farmers, an important factor in the story, so there was a particular sense of poetic justice in the fact that Kelly accurately predicted the demise of Barry from the docks when he said, “I will see you there when I go.” Barry died just 12 days after Kelly was hanged.
The series will form the centrepiece of an exhibition titled “Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly Series,” presented by Etihad Airways and will be on display from November 2 to January 27.