Bookclub: Recommended reading for Nolan / Swann

Recommended reading for Nolan / Swann

“A committed autodidact throughout his life, Nolan was a voracious and attentive reader of literature, philosophy, history, mythology, and, above all, poetry.” — curator Anthony Fitzpatrick 

In the tradition of Nolan, we encourage you to read widely, read closely, read passionately with our recommended reading list. A companion to Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider and Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan, this reading list will let you explore the myths and themes that inspired and informed these exhibitions. Consider it your own personal TarraWarra bookclub!

Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider catalogue

The best place to start your reading is with the Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider catalogue.

This limited release features a curatorial essay by Anthony Fitzpatrick, ‘Fighting Words: Nolan and Poetry’, a new essay by David Hansen (Associate Professor at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University)  and ‘Sidney Nolan’s “Disasters of War”’, an essay by Sarah Midford (Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at La Trobe University).

Buy the Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider catalogue 

Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan catalogue

Elspeth Pitt, Curator, Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia has crafted a compelling and insightful essay for the Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan catalogue.

Buy the Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan catalogue

The Marriage of CadmusThe Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
By Robert Calasso

A masterful retelling of ancient myths by one of Europe’s pre-eminent literary figures.

Heather B. Swann’s close reading of Calasso informed her work for Leda and the Swan, and curator Anthony Fitzpatrick references Calasso in his research for Sidney Nolan: Myth Rider.

“In his astonishing compendium of Greek myths, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, Calasso unearths and retells the myriad variants of these enigmatic tales, revealing their perennial significance as both a vital wellspring of the imaginary and a cartography of human consciousness.” — curator Anthony Fitzpatrick

Order The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony from Booktopia

The Women of Troy
By Pat Barker

A feminist retelling of The Illiad from the perspective of the women of Troy. Pat Barker rewrites one of the greatest classical myths in The Women of Troy. Gain a fresh perspective on the aftermath of the Leda and the Swan story.

Order The Women of Troy from Booktopia

The Greek Myths
By Robert Graves

Sidney Nolan drew deeply from The Greek Myths. The book was an important source for his Hydra series. He first read the book as preparation for his travel to Greece “as a way of getting into the landscape and understanding what it was all about”.

Order The Greek Myths from Booktopia

Troy by Stephen FryTroy
By Stephen Fry

A retelling of the 10 year epic battle of the Trojan War. Award-winning writer Stephen Fry brings to life the details of this epic story.

A fantastic primer for appreciating Sidney Nolan’s Troy series of paintings.

Order Troy from Booktopia

Mythology by Christopher DellMythology: An Illustrated Journey into Our Imagined Worlds

Christopher Dell

A sumptuously illustrated, lively and accessible compendium of enduring myths and legends from around the world and across time. From the ancient Norse characters to Homer’s epics, this is a beautiful introduction to mythology for everyone.

Order Mythology from Booktopia

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad
By Homer, translated by Robert Fagles

If you’ve never delved into The Iliad, this is the unrivalled edition to start with, translated by Robert Fagles.

The original written story of Troy, the classic Greek epic poem, attributed to Homer.

Order The Illiad from Booktopia

The Oresteia
By Aeschylus

The only trilogy in Greek drama that survives from antiquity, The Oresteia is the story of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos and centres on the aftermath of the Trojan War.

The Oresteia was a source of inspiration for Nolan’s major statements on the Trojan War. According to curator Anthony Fitzpatrick, reading this Greek tragedy “would provide the spark for Nolan’s return to the epic myth”.

Order The Oresteia from Booktopia

Women and Power by Mary BeardWomen & Power: A manifesto
By Mary Beard

Classicist Mary Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny and women’s relationship with power. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Elizabeth Warren.

Elspeth Pitt, Curator, Australian Art at National Gallery of Australia, refers to Mary Beard’s writing in her essay for the Heather B. Swann: Leda and the Swan exhibition catalogue.

Order Women & Power from Booktopia

A Theatre for Dreamers
By Polly Samson

Immerse yourself in Greek island of Hydra in the halcyon days of the late 50s and early 60s, when artists including Charmian Clift, George Johnston and Leonard Cohen gathered to seek inspiration from the idyllic setting.

A Theatre for Dreamers is a literary fiction perfect for summer reading that will give you a taste of why Sidney Nolan found Hydra so irresistible and inspiring.

Order A Theatre for Dreamers from Booktopia


Sidney Nolan: A life
By Nancy Underhill

Get to really know Sidney Nolan. An authoritative, insightful and often irreverent biography that fully charts Nolan’s life and work.

Buy Sidney Nolan: A life at the TarraWarra Museum shop


Book purchases through Booktopia are offered as part of TarraWarra Museum of Art’s participation in the Booktopia Affiliate program.

Header image: Sidney Nolan, Pale Figure on a Horse 1956. Collection of Frederick and Jennifer McMurray and Sidney Nolan, The Myth Rider 1958 –1959, Private Collection. Installation view, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2021 © The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust / Bridgeman Images. Copyright is now managed by the Copyright Agency. Photo by Andrew Curtis.

Temporarily closed for exhibition installation. Open again 3 Aug