Mary Nolan

Mary Nolan
1927 – 2016

The National Gallery of Australia is saddened to hear the news that Lady Nolan, widow of Sir Sidney Nolan, youngest sister of Arthur Boyd, has died in Wales.

While she did not decide—as did her sister and brothers— to become a professional artist, Mary Elizabeth Boyd did paint and make ceramics in a style described as being 'instinctive and natural'. She was also admired for her photography.  Having grown up in a highly creative family, in their home 'Open Country' at Murrumbeena, on what was then the rural outskirts of Melbourne, she was an engaging presence to many.  From an early age she appears as a subject in numerous paintings by Arthur Boyd and as a model for her other brother Guy's sculptural work and later in John Perceval's densely populated paintings. The NGA is fortunate to own one of the great early images of her by her brother Arthur, painted in 1937. 


Arthur Boyd Mary Boyd 1937 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1966 The Arthur Boyd Gft, 1975


She was first married to close family friend and artist, John Perceval and later, from 1978, to Sidney Nolan.


Mary and Sidney Nolan at Bundanon, NSW. Image courtesy Bundanon Trust

Mary Nolan, had an enduring passion and commitment to the visual arts and was always generous in allowing the Gallery to promote the images of Sidney Nolan's works.  Together with her siblings, she gifted a large number of works by their father Merric Boyd to the national collection. It was her way of recognising their father's achievement but also part of a long family tradition of making artistically inspired philanthropic contributions to the nation.

Mary Nolan with her late husband Sidney Nolan, established The Rodd, their home in Wales where they welcomed many Australian artists and members of the art world, but they never lost contact with Australia. She died peacefully at The Rodd and is survived by four children, from her marriage to John Perceval.

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