Obituary: Sir Sidney Nolan

MAY WE be allowed to add a note to the excellent obituaries of Sir Sidney Nolan by Frank Whitford and Christopher Heathcote (30 November)? write Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.

One aspect of Nolan's creativity not touched upon by either contributor was Nolan's deep admiration for, and involvement with, the music of Benjamin Britten, the Aldeburgh Festival and the Suffolk landscape and seascape.

Nolan first visited Aldeburgh in 1950, when he was introduced to the composer by Sir Kenneth Clark: 'We immediately got off on to a good footing,' recalled Nolan in a public interview at Aldeburgh in June 1990. 'We either had a shared innocence or a shared opposite,' and the two men remained friends until Britten's death in 1976. The first series of paintings to be inspired by Britten's music were the Shakespeare Sonnets, first shown at Aldeburgh in 1964. The studies had been inspired by Britten's consummate setting of Shakespeare's 'When most I wink then do mine eyes best see', the final number in his orchestral song-cycle Nocturne, 0p. 60, the hearing of which had, according to Nolan, unlocked something deeply hidden in himself and found expression and release in his paintings. Other Britten- inspired works followed, including Rejoice in the Lamb (a series of Australian flower paintings, exhibited at Aldeburgh in 1968), Winter Words, Children's Crusade - a series of finger-paintings accomplished first as integral illustrations of the facsimile of Britten's manuscript of the work published on the occasion of the composer's 60th birthday in 1973 - and the Donne Sonnets, as well as responses to some of Britten's dramatic music, notably Peter Grimes and Billy Budd.

In 1970, when Britten and Pears were at the Adelaide Festival with the English Opera Group, it was Nolan who showed his native land to his English friends. Britten was as moved by the qualities of Aboriginal culture he saw there as he was by the Australian landscape, and began to discuss the possibility of writing a ballet contrasting European and aboriginal civilisations in which Nolan would collaborate. This remained unfulfilled, as did another project, a musical setting of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for television which Nolan was to illustrate.

Nolan's final appearances at Aldeburgh in 1990 and 1991 were connected. In 1990, he generously loaned some of his Children's Crusade paintings which, together with Winter Words, were exhibited for the first time in public at the Britten-Pears Library. The oriental quality of some of the Children's Crusade paintings (Nolan had visited China in 1965) suggested an interest in the Far East and when in the following year the Festival featured a Japanese production of Britten's Curlew River prefaced by its Noh source, Sumidagawa, Nolan agreed to design the obligatory pine tree.

The tree was rapidly sketched, and what emerged was something distinctly Nolanesque that none the less perfectly harmonised with the age-old tradition of Noh. Nolan took a bow with the Japanese cast at the end of the final performance, looking thoroughly happy and at home, like his tree. It was his last appearance at Aldeburgh.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue