From the outset of his career in Melbourne, Sidney Nolan stood out as a highly original artist. He painted 'Self portrait' at the age of 26, during his military service in the Wimmera district of north-west Victoria. It embodies many of his
preoccupations at the time, including his interest in the landscape as subject.
Nolan's imagery recalled the mask-like faces painted by so-called 'haptic' children in Viktor Lowenfeld's book 'The nature of creative activity', which he and other artists were reading at that time. Another source may be indicated in a letter
Nolan wrote to his patron and muse, Sunday Reed, in 1944, in which he admires Picasso's use of African cicatrisation or scarification and Maori markings in portraits. Selective distortion, exaggeration and the visual impact of pure, bold primary colours express Nolan's feelings about his surroundings; however, the image is tempered by the lyrical passages depicting the vast Wimmera landscape.