The melodrama of the Kelly story captivated Sidney Nolan. When Kelly staggered out of the Glenrowan Inn, wearing his metal armour, forty kilos in weight, and beating his breastplate with a revolver, he roared: 'Come out boys and we'll whip the lot of 'em!' Having neglected to cover his lower legs with armour, the police shot him in the knees. Falling to the ground, Kelly declared: "I'm done, I'm done".
When Nolan painted his Kelly series, he was himself, like the bushranger, a fugitive from the law. In July 1944, faced with the possibility that he would be sent to Papua New Guinea on front-line duty, Nolan went absent-without-leave. He went to stay at Heide, near Melbourne, in the home of John and Sunday Reed. Amid this environment, what the French like to call a 'ménage à trois', Nolan created his Kelly paintings. He had made a total of 45 Kelly paintings between March 1945 and July 1947