One of a series of 'Outback' paintings made following a trip to Queensland and Fraser Island in 1947, 'Pretty Polly Mine' - with its haunting, desolate remains of a once prosperous past - was the first of Nolan's works to be acquired by any public gallery, together with 'Carron Plains'.
Painted from memories of a visit to a deserted Mt Isa mine, the stiff, dark-suited figure wandering the ramshackle structures is based on the mine manager the artist met there, who:
'... liked feeding birds every morning. Everyone thought he was bonkers, but he fed the birds, rosellas and all.'
- Sidney Nolan 1978
Nolan's concept of the Australian landscape is interwoven with its history, legends and the psyche of its inhabitants, producing works which are often surreal in character.
In 1949 he travelled to Central Australia, and produced another important series of landscapes, which received widespread critical acclaim:
'He may well be the man we have been hoping would arise - someone who is capable of expressing with size and vision what many Australians feel ... about this great and unusual country ... His effort and his intent will earn the gratitude of many devoted Australians.'
- RG Casey 1950