Pentagram partner Harry Pearce discusses the image that has haunted him since he was a boy.
Early 70’s West Country, England
I grew up in the tiny village of France Lynch, in the West Country. Our old Cotswold home was full of books, art and music; my parents surrounded us with it all. I remember being very young and spending hours sitting in my bedroom, leafing through endless books on the history of art. Some books I spent so long with that I would know the picture on the page to follow, before I turned the leaf. Many images haunted me forever, and one of these was Sidney Nolan’s 1946 painting ‘Ned Kelly’. I’m pretty sure the image was in Thames and Hudson’s Concise History of Modern Painting. It’s dream like quality had a lasting effect, I loved it then and still do. Why this painting, out of all the images in that book, had such an effect on me I’ve never really understood, it was just a deep visceral connection. Strangely since then I’ve rarely ever returned to the picture.
May 2009 Melbourne, Australia
A lifetime later you can imagine how moved I was when I was on an Austrian radio show with Stefan Sagmiester in Melbourne and a third guest appeared - Jason Smith. Jason is the CEO of the Heide Museum of Modern Art near Melbourne, the place where ‘Ned Kelly’ was painted. After the show I told Jason the story of my childhood love of the ‘Ned Kelly’ painting and very kindly the next day, he picked me up from my hotel and took me to Heide.
(The grounds at Heide)
(The House at Heide)
(Beautiful Modern Art at Heide)
(Ashtrays designed by Alan Fletcher on display at Heide)
We explored the grounds, the original house and home of Sunday and John Reed where Sidney Nolan lived, loved and worked. I stood in the room where the original painting was created. In the grounds of Heide is the beautiful Museum of Modern Art. Here, I was then allowed into the archives and saw some wonderful lesser known paintings by Nolan, not usually on display. This was a deeply moving day, a direct return to my childhood.
September 2013 Royal Academy of Art, London
Having last year completed the new corporate identity for the Royal Academy of Art, we now design the posters for the major exhibitions. During the briefings for these projects we edit, along with the RA’s marketing team, the broad selection of mages that best represent the main theme of the show’s works. As soon as the ‘Ned Kelly’ image appeared from the pile of potential iconic Australian art, I knew in my heart this had to be the one, and so Sidney Nolan once more haunted my life as we made the painting the centrepiece of our poster.
Somehow I feel our story is not over yet.