This biography studies the making of writer and artist's wife Cynthia Nolan, born Violet Cynthia Reed. She was almost forty when she married Sidney Nolan and consigned her past to obscurity. It tracks this brave, elusive figure through historical sources, letters, her novels, the recollections of friends and family, and the photographs and portraits made of her.
After a privileged but constrained childhood, she travelled to Europe. Inspired by what she'd seen, she returned to Australia and, with a small circle of artists and designers, created a brief but influential business in contemporary art and design. In 1934, she moved to Sydney, hoping to find work as an actress. Disenchanted, Cynthia travelled to America, then London, to train as a nurse. Nurse Reed was in France when war was declared. She returned to Melbourne, pregnant, and stayed at Heide. She made a life for herself and her daughter, Mosca Jinx, in a cottage in Sydney, where she completed her much overlooked novels.
Cynthia met Sidney through her sister-in-law, Sunday, who was married to John Reed. The women were close, but in 1941 Cynthia and Sunday had a falling out. Sidney came knocking on Cynthia's door in 1948. Once married, Sidney adopted Jinx, signalling his commitment to their family life.
Cynthia had the requisite skills, experience and contacts to assist Sidney in his unprecedented success. From 1953, their home base was in Putney, London. Cynthia recorded their travels and preoccupations in four books, and also wrote a novel, A Bride for St Thomas, published in 1970. By this time she was frail, often in severe pain. In 1976, having confided in no-one, Cynthia died in a hotel room in London.
In her letters and books we hear her distinctive and discriminating voice, despite the turmoil surrounding her at Heide. This book restores her rightful place in history as an influential woman in her own right.