Sir Sidney Nolan is one of Australia's most recognised painters with works held in international art galleriesHis series of Ned Kelly paintings with their distinctive imagery are among the most famous in Australian artNolan also painted hundreds of works in response to Nazi concentration camps which have never been shownHe produced a dozen portraits of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust, during 1961 war crimes trialNolan visited Auschwitz but was so disturbed by what he saw there he could not even pick up a paint brush An exhibition of his Holocaust works has opened at the Sydney Jewish Museum and will run until October 23

Australian painter Sidney Nolan is best known for his iconic images of bushranger Ned Kelly but he produced another series of works so disturbing they have never been offered for sale.

The internationally acclaimed artist secretly painted hundreds of portraits of Holocaust victims in concentration camps and many of those pictures are on public display for the first time.

While Nolan depicted Kelly in solid black armour and box-like helmet riding through boldly coloured bush landscapes, these sombre studies feature tortured figures destined for gas chambers.

The only recognisable figure in the paintings is Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal considered the architect of the murder of six million Jews.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Australian painter Sir Sidney Nolan, best known for his iconic series of bushranger Ned Kelly, painted hundreds of pictures of the Holocaust including open-mouthed screaming victims of death camps (above). Fifty of the paintings are on public display for the first time in Sydney

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Unlike the bold-coloured bush scenes depicting Kelly in the box-like helmet Nolan created for him (above), the sombre images on show at the Sydney Jewish Museum are deeply disturbing

Nolan repeatedly painted Eichmann during his televised war crimes trial, then moved onto haunting portraits of anonymous victims of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.

His next step was a plan to capture on canvas what he had never witnessed himself by visiting the crematoria at the World War killing factory of Auschwitz.

Nolan was so tormented by what he saw at the most notorious of the Nazi death camps he could not even pick up a brush and never attempted another Holocaust painting.

This whole little-known chapter of art history is told in a new exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum called Shaken to his Core: The Untold Story of Nolan’s Auschwitz.

Fifty of Nolan’s unseen works on the Holocaust rushed out in 1961-62 have gone on show, accompanied by explanations of how and why they came to be painted.

Visitors to the museum already expecting to see deeply troubling material are given a separate warning at the entrance that some of the images may be confronting.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

The only recognisable figure in Nolan’s Holocaust paintings is Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’. Eichmann is pictured at his 1961 war crimes trial in Israel

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Nolan painted Eichmann over and over again in late 1961. Each picture showed the same receding hair, broad forehead, thin lips and thick rounded glasses (above)

Nolan died in 1992 and his second wife Mary died in 2016. Most of the works on display are owned by the Lady Nolan Estate and usually stored in Victoria.

Sydney Jewish Museum head curator Roslyn Sugerman became aware of the paintings through Nolan researcher Andrew Turley.

‘It’s an incredible side to Nolan that nobody knows about,’ Sugarman says. ‘Without even seeing the works I realised it would be a significant exhibition for the museum.

‘To see an artist of his stature grappling with a way to respond to the horrors that were the Holocaust would draw a lot of attention to the topic.’

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Sydney Jewish Museum head curator Roslyn Sugerman (above) wants Australians to see Nolan’s Holocaust paintings.  ‘It’s an incredible side to Nolan that nobody knows about’

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

A painting inspired by the Soviet army reclaiming the Polish city of Lublin in 1944 (above) features a skyline and colours recognisable from the Ned Kelly works Nolan produced in 1946-47

Sugarman notes almost all the works are unsigned which suggests they were never meant to go on the market.

‘You get a very strong sense he felt the subject of the camps is not something that should be commercialised,’ she says. ‘They only belong in a museum.’

Sugarman acknowledges even if the works were ever put up for sale there would be few buyers interested in hanging a picture of Auschwitz or Eichmann.

‘Who would want a portrait of the worst kind of Nazi in their dining room?’ she says.

‘You don’t want to look up at piles of bodies while you’re having dinner and so hence I would say he kept them private.’

Nolan’s attention was drawn to concentration camps more than five years before Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and the rest of the world began trying to comprehend the scale of the Holocaust.

In one early work Nolan painted over a photograph of Buchenwald labour camp inmates he had cut out of an October 1939 edition of the Argus Weekend Magazine.

‘Through Australian eyes he’s looking at what’s happening in Europe,’ Sugarman says.  ‘Nolan is thinking about and aware of the concentration camps, probably before any other artist in Australia.’

Nolan’s ongoing obsession with the Holocaust continued after he moved to England in 1953 and can be seen in newspaper clippings he cut out and kept in his diary.

His fixation increased during the war crimes trial of Eichmann.

The Nazi who had masterminded the transport of Jews by train to concentration camps had disappeared after the war but in 1960 was captured and kidnapped in Argentina by the Israeli secret service Mossad.

Eichmann’s trial, which began in April 1961 in Jerusalem, captured the world’s attention and reignited awareness of the Holocaust atrocities.

‘It was a time when people were questioning whether justice was done and whether justice ever could be done,’ Sugarman says.

For months Eichmann was pictured in daily newspaper reports of the hearings sitting behind bullet-proof glass in the dock, claiming he had only done what he was told.

While the trial dragged on Nolan’s Jewish journalist friend Al Alvarez proposed the artist accompany him to Auschwitz to illustrate a story for The Observer.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Some of Nolan’s portraits show concentration camp victims superimposed with vertical stripes. Others are wreathed and smoke or depict skeletal heads and ribs of barbed wire


‘Al Alvarez comes to lunch,’ Nolan wrote in his diary. ‘He is going to Poland. We talk about concentration camps. If we could pain the subject it would be a duty to do so.’

Before travelling to the camp Nolan spent five months considering whether such suffering could ever be conveyed in art.

‘I am reluctant in a way to dig deeper into Europe but I do not see how the question of the camps can be forever shelved,’ he wrote in his diary.

‘Perhaps they will never be the material of art, it is impossible to tell. How can a disease be painted?’

Nolan’s first major attempts at capturing the Holocaust came in the last months of 1961 when in 14 days he painted a dozen quick portraits of Eichmann.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

One series of Nolan’s Holocaust paintings includes bodies piled up and laid out in rows and skeletons overflowing from wheelbarrows, as well as smoking crosses

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Nolan died in 1992 and his second wife Mary died in 2016. The Holocaust works on display are owned by the Lady Nolan Estate and usually stored in Victoria. The couple is pictured in 1985

Each picture showed the same receding hair, broad forehead, thin lips and thick rounded glasses.

‘Nolan repeats his face over and over again,’ Sugarman says. ‘Once Eichmann has been found guilty then Nolan switches to painting dozens of faces of victims.’

On December 15, three judges sentenced Eichmann to death for crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of a criminal organisation.

The next day Nolan began painting concentration camp victims in 120 portraits completed in a a fortnight’s flurry of work that left him exhausted.

The series featured three distinct groups of imagined subjects.

The first can be characterised by the vertical lines of Auschwitz’s uniforms, sometimes superimposed over victims’ faces. The next were wreathed in smoke with open mouths screaming. The third showed skeletal heads and ribs of barbed wire.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Curator Roslyn Sugarman acknowledges even if the works were ever put up for sale there would be few buyers interested in hanging a picture of Auschwitz victims or Adolf Eichmann

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

‘It might not be the subject matter you’re familiar with but it’s the intensity and the passion of the artist you know,’ Roslyn Sugarman says. ‘You’re going to see distinctly Nolan approach to painting’

After a week’s rest Nolan picked up his brushes again on January 6 and in two days executed 90 more images even more harrowing than those that had come before.

This time the figures he painted included bodies piled up and laid out in rows and skeletons overflowing from wheelbarrows, as well as smoking crosses.

‘This is a very powerful symbol of universal suffering that’s instantly recognisable,’ Sugarman says. ‘The smoke coming out of the crosses references the smoke coming out of the crematoria in Auschwitz.’

Sugarman acknowledges the crosses and their association with Christianity could be confronting in a Jewish museum.

‘At the end of the day the fact is Nolan has used symbolism and I think as a viewer we can interpret it as we wish,’ she says. ‘Could it be that Nolan is saying humanity in general stands accused of these crimes?’

Nolan left England for Poland on January 25 and arrived in Auschwitz four days later. It was mid-winter and the camp was covered in snow as Nolan photographed the chimney stacks, electric fences and watch towers.

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

Before travelling to Auschwitz, Nolan spent five months considering whether such suffering could ever be conveyed in art. ‘How can a disease be painted?’ he asked in his diary

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

‘To see an artist of his stature grappling with a way to respond to the horrors that were the Holocaust would draw a lot of attention to the topic,’ Rosyln Sugarman says

Alvarez described the scenes inside Auschwitz’s gates: ‘Mountains of human hair, suitcases, spectacles, shaving brushes, artificial limbs. Great mounds of old shoes reach up like rubble after an air raid.’

‘The interiors of the barracks were dreadful – the tiers of bunks in which the prisoners slept, six men to a bunk, like battery hens waiting to be slaughtered.’

Despite all his preparation Nolan realised he could not translate what he saw into art and refused to illustrate Alvarez’s story.

‘Once he was confronted with being on the site where 1.3 million people were murdered, of which 1.1 million were Jewish, he could not paint,’ Sugarman says.

‘Nolan was so overwhelmed that he refused the commission and he never painted the Holocaust again.’

A long way from Ned Kelly: The secret series of portraits from one of Australia's most acclaimed artists are on show for the first time - a dark vision of the torment he NEVER recovered from after a visit to the Nazi killing fields

When Nolan saw the horrors of Auschwitz he realised he could not paint it. The experience was so harrowing he could not pick up a brush and for a while could not listen to music

Nolan did not speak of the experience for more than 20 years and 30 years after he visited the camp remembered how it disrupted his practice of painting to music: ‘I could not listen to music for months after going to Auschwitz.’

Sugarman says those familiar with Nolan’s more famous works will recognise themes in his Holocaust paintings.

‘When you start knowing where his thoughts are you can trace and track this thread of man’s inhumanity to man through his work,’ she says.

‘It might not be the subject matter you’re familiar with but it’s the intensity and the passion of the artist you know. You’re going to see distinctly Nolan approach to painting.’

Shaken to his Core: The Untold Story of Nolan’s Auschwitz is on at the Sydney Jewish Museum, 148 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst until October 23.  

EXCLUSIVE: Strictly Come Dancing champion Bill Bailey launches new planning to battle to convert flats into £2million west London home with swimming pool

Danish prime minister on Nord Stream 'sabotage'

Bella Hadid shows off her toned physique in a cropped waist coat as she steps out during Paris Fashion Week

'Heartbroken' family pay tribute to Guardsman, 18, found dead in his barracks just days after walking alongside Queen's coffin as they prepare to release balloons in his memory

EXCLUSIVE: John Fury offers to fight Eddie Hearn for FREE on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua if AJ and his team sign the Battle of Britain contract

Kaia Gerber looks glam in bejewelled red bralet and grey trousers as she gets ready to shoot scenes for star-studded comedy Mrs. American Pie

Former Arsenal man Henri Lansbury reveals his love for gardening in bizarre post-match interview after lawn mower celebration against Hull... while Carlton Morris explains how Luton's groundsman has given Lansbury his own section of grass to look after

Video: EXCLUSIVE: John Fury offers to fight Eddie Hearn for FREE on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua if AJ and his team sign the Battle of Britain contract

Rain could dampen prospects for thousands of London Marathon runners

Bayern Munich fans express solidarity with Iranian protesters and Bayer Leverkusen's Sardar Azmoun after the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini in police custody in Tehran... as their supporters unveil supportive banners during Friday's clash

Jerry Jones addresses Randy Gregory’s Cowboys exit

London roof gardens: secret green spaces in the heart of the city — all free to visit

Government may consider benefits cut to help fund tax breaks for rich, economists warn

First-time surrogate mother reveals how she is beating the post-partum blues by traveling in an RV across the US with her husband and two children

Video: Wild moment former British politician Nigel Farage is called 'far-right scum' in heated clash with an Aussie left-wing protester - after he labelled Scott Morrison a 'gutless coward'

The real life neo-Nazi terror plot behind new Stephen Graham drama The Walk-In

NEWS RELATED

Gun-obsessed man, 22, is accused of buying child exploitation material from a teenager - as his outrageous Instagram description is revealed

Harrison Anthoney William Wride, 22, charged with child abuse offences He allegedly purchased child exploitation material from a Perth teenager Wride appeared in court on Friday, he will next face court in November He describes himself as 'firearms enthusiast' and 'professional f**khead' online

View more: Gun-obsessed man, 22, is accused of buying child exploitation material from a teenager - as his outrageous Instagram description is revealed

'I find myself picking at scabs that I'd rather not': Paul Bettany says he thinks about his late brother's death when filming emotional scenes as he poses for suave Gentleman's Journal shoot

Paul Bettany has opened up about how his difficult real-life experiences have influenced his acting work as he posed for a suave magazine photoshoot The actor, 51, said he can't switch his emotions 'on and off' when filming tragic scenes so draws on his own experiences to replicate that raw emotionHis brother Matthew died aged eight after fracturing his skull in a freak accident when Paul was 16, and he said the devastating loss has influenced his acting Speaking to Gentleman's Journal for a cover shoot, Paul said he finds himself 'picking at scabs' when filming emotional scenes

View more: 'I find myself picking at scabs that I'd rather not': Paul Bettany says he thinks about his late brother's death when filming emotional scenes as he poses for suave Gentleman's Journal shoot

Jesse Marsch not worried by touchline ban as he bids to guide Leeds from up high

The American was hit with a one-match suspension and fined £10,000 by the Football Association.

View more: Jesse Marsch not worried by touchline ban as he bids to guide Leeds from up high

North Shields one-punch killer admits manslaughter of South Shields man

A one-punch killer is facing prison after he admitted causing the death of a man. William Longworth pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Noel Reynolds, who died a few weeks after the assault. The 36-year-old punched Mr Reynolds, 37, of South Shields, on the evening of December 10 last year ...

View more: North Shields one-punch killer admits manslaughter of South Shields man

Video: Pep Guardiola praises Manchester City physios for keeping Erling Haaland fit

Meet the young people from a unionist background who support a united Ireland

Meet the young people from a unionist background who support a united Ireland. Andrew Clarke, 26, and Peter Adair, 21, grew up with religious and cultural influences associated with a British identity. But the pair are joining a major nationalist conference being held in Dublin on Saturday to rally support ...

View more: Meet the young people from a unionist background who support a united Ireland

Aston Villa receive transfer boost as big in-house update regarding 'unbelievable' hero emerges

Premier League – Burnley v Aston Villa Aston Villa have rejected Manchester United’s rumoured approach for influential goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, according to a new transfer update. The Lowdown: United keen on Martinez The Argentine has been a hugely impressive performer for Villa since joining from Arsenal back in 2020, ...

View more: Aston Villa receive transfer boost as big in-house update regarding 'unbelievable' hero emerges

Every Premier League club's star striker has been ranked into five tiers from A-E

The Premier League is home to some of the best strikers in world football. There’s been something of a renaissance of a proper No.9 with the arrivals of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez this summer. Both are old-fashioned strikers. Big, strong, quick and only interested in scoring goals. But strikers ...

View more: Every Premier League club's star striker has been ranked into five tiers from A-E

Video: Mikel Arteta has to perform balancing act to keep hotshot Gabriel Jesus on pitch

Queen Consort Camilla scraps traditional palace roles in huge Royal family shake-up

'Extra fuel is used!' Drivers warned of fuel-wasting speed bump mistake

'Avoid conflict!' Drivers warned of £1,000 fines for letting an ambulance go past

I would cancel Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV Plus in October — here’s why

Frightening moment man, 24, shouting 'shoot me' at police is gunned down on the main street of a busy tourist town as witnesses who mistook the fatal shots for fireworks reveal what sparked the incident

'Most beautiful girl in the world' Thylane Blondeau cuts a glamorous figure in a sheer champagne gown for the Forbes Trophy dinner in Paris

Watchdog to deliver verdict on budget next week but Kwarteng won’t publish it

Virals: Celtic figure sends important message to fans ahead of game

Video: Frightening moment man, 24, shouting 'shoot me' at police is gunned down on the main street of a busy tourist town as witnesses who mistook the fatal shots for fireworks reveal what sparked the incident

James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli recalls ‘distressing’ 2008 meeting with Amy Winehouse

Why Londoners pay more for electricity – even under Liz Truss’s new price cap

OTHER NEWS

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network