Sidney Nolan: Untitled (Lovers and flowers) c.1942
Sidney Nolan: Untitled (Lovers and flowers) c.1942
14 April 2016

A new exhibition at The University of Queensland Art Museum presents the most comprehensive display ever assembled of a rare series of paintings on roofing slates, produced by renowned Australian artist Sidney Nolan in 1941 and 1942.

We who love: The Nolan slates curator Dr Chris McAuliffe said the 33 slates provided a deeply personal insight into a pivotal moment in Nolan’s life.

“For Sidney Nolan, this period was dominated by artistic experimentation and personal upheaval, coinciding with his marriage breakdown and the intensification of his relationship with patrons John and Sunday Reed,” Dr McAuliffe said.

“These paintings on slate, executed in rapid succession amidst fears arising from the war in the Pacific, reflect Nolan’s avant-garde aspirations and are a remarkable, even desperate, declaration of artistic independence.

“The slates, which Nolan pilfered from the roof of a building near his Melbourne studio, reveal his fascination with unorthodox materials, while the motifs, developed across successive paintings, show him discovering and refining his thoughts through rapid repetition.

“I think the intimacy of the slates in terms of scale and mood, and their rich, metaphorical imagery will give the viewer the sense that they are looking over the shoulder of a 24-year-old Nolan making these experimental paintings about life and love.”

Exhibition co-ordinating curator Samantha Littley said the exhibition marked the first time that the University’s important holdings of 18 of the slates could be seen in the context of other related works by Nolan.

“It’s impossible to say precisely how many slates Nolan painted, however, through extensive research, Chris has identified 24 – and because Nolan painted on both sides of nine slates, there are 33 paintings in total.” Ms Littley said.  

“A small selection of digitally produced facsimiles will be used to allow visitors to view the double-sided slates, including one not able to travel to Brisbane because of its fragility..

“We are grateful for the insightful research Chris has brought to this project and to the public galleries and private individuals who have generously lent their slates and other artworks to the exhibition.”

We who love: The Nolan slates opens on 20 April at the UQ Art Museum and runs until 24 July.

Public program: Wednesday 20 April, 6-7pm

Determined to be modern: The early work of Sidney Nolan – Public lecture and discussion with Dr Chris McAuliffe and Dr Nancy Underhill, moderated by UQ’s Dr Amelia Barikin. The exhibition will be opened at 7.30pm by Dr Emily Bitto, UQ alumnus and author of The Strays (2014), awarded the 2015 Stella Prize.

Thursday 21 April, 6-7pm
Art, Love and Literature – Join Dr Emily Bitto and Dr Chris McAuliffe as they discuss lives shaped by art, love and literature. Moderated by UQ’s Associate Professor Bronwyn Lea.

Download images for print and web here.

Media: Sonia Uranishi,, +61 409 387 623 or Sebastian Moody,, +61 7 3346 8761.