vale Mary Nolan

Posted by on Apr 30, 2016 in Nolan | 1 comment

With sadness aCOMMENT records the death of Lady Mary Nolan at her home The Rodd on the border of England and Wales on 6 April 2016. She was 89. Sidney Nolan’s third wife, he her second husband, her death has brought forth tributes aplenty many of which lament her passing in terms such as “a door has been closed” and “the light goes out”.

On 26 April, four days after Nolan would have turned 99, she was laid to rest with him in Highgate Cemetery East beneath the tombstone which for many years, as well as proclaiming “SIDNEY NOLAN PAINTER”, had her own name already inscribed.



Sidney Nolan's grave, Highgate Cemetery (East), London

Sidney and Mary Nolan’s grave, Highgate Cemetery (East), London


Sister of artist Arthur Boyd, she married artist John Perceval in November 1944, her future husband Nolan one of the witnesses.  Her name appeared in print in the fourth edition of Angry Penguins in early 1943 as the dedicatee of Max Harris’ poem “The Word”.  It is little known that on Harris’ type-written manuscript, but not published, beneath the dedication are typed the German words “Verweile doch, du bist so schön” from Goethe’s Faust – in English “linger a while, you are so beautiful.” As indeed she was, this little painting by her brother Arthur a clear testament.


Arthur Boyd, portrait of his sister Mary, 1937, collection NGA

Arthur Boyd, portrait of his sister Mary, 1937, collection NGA


Of several obituaries, one stands out.  By Damian Smith, it tells of his four years living and working at The Rodd during the 1990s after Nolan’s death, helping his widow in the massive task of archiving his art and letters.  Damian told me years ago how Mary was like a grandmother to him – and her sense of presence shines through his writing in insights that benefit from being first-hand. His tribute can be read here.



One Comment

Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Roy

    Thank you, David, much appreciated.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *