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Head of soldier Theme: Patriotic Duty

Artist: Sidney NOLAN
Birth/Death: 1917–1992

Title: Head of soldier

Credit Line: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

‘Sanity is a relative term. It may be merely a mask — and war but a masquerade.’

The psychiatrist Reg Ellery wrote these words in his book Psychiatric Aspects of Modern Warfare published in 1945; Nolan’s Head of soldier featured on the cover. The model was Captain Bilby, Nolan’s commanding officer in the supply corps in the Wimmera district of Victoria..

Nolan was passionately against Australian involvement in the Second World War and had done everything to avoid active duty. By painting a digger, the embodiment of Australian pride, as a shell-shocked victim, Nolan exposed the lunacy of war and his personal reaction to it.

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