N is for Ned (Kelly), (Sidney) Nolan, and Notoriety​


Ned_Kelly 1880

Ned Kelly in 1880


Nobody needs to keep moving quite like an outlaw, a fugitive on the run, a criminal on the lam… Where am I going with this? Keep in mind that this month my theme is On the Move: Travel, Transitions, and Transformation, so all my posts should, theoretically, somehow relate. And, if you’ve been following along, many of the posts have wound up having some connection to art as well, art being the ultimate means of transforming real life into something… else. Oh boy, that thought is heading fast in the direction of musing about the question, What is art? [If you feel like you might have an answer, please feel free to post your thoughts down in the comments below…]

Meanwhile, however, Ned Kelly comes to mind. Ned was one of a handful of iconic figures I was aware of as a child growing up in Australia. The swagman (of once a jolly fame) and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo were a couple of others… Ned, though, he was a guy who got my mother’s goat. Why? she ranted, would people admire a common criminal? “He was nothing but a hoodlum!” That may have been true, but good old Ned, who came by his dastardly ways honestly (his father was a convict) ignited something in Australia’s collective imagination. His early misdeeds mostly involved stealing horses and a bit of cattle rustling, but he and his gang later upped the ante by robbing banks and killing police officers. It all ended badly, of course – Kelly survived a wild shootout (many others didn’t), but was then tried, convicted and hanged.


the-trial-1947 Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan’s The Trial (1947) is one of many paintings depicting scenes inspired by Ned Kelly’s life. 


His story, though, lives on in art, film, music and literature.



Ned Kelly survived multiple gunshots because he was wearing this armour under his long Aussie coat. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he was ingenious… 



Armoured Helmet by Sidney Nolan, 1956 – In this intriguing painting, it seems like Nolan is trying to capture the view from the inside of the helmet. some aspect of the wearer’s face (Ned? is that you?) and the helmet as seen from afar…



I’ll leave you with this final factoid… Did you know Mick Jagger played Ned in the film Ned Kelly (1970)? I had no idea, but I’m thinking I need to track down a copy…

See you tomorrow…

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