Margaret Olley

7 JANUARY – 26 MARCH 2017 

This major exhibition celebrates the influences of Margaret Olley as an artist from her student days and those she inspired throughout her life. It explores the influences of her teachers on her practice, the inspirations that shaped her as a painter and finally her legacy to those artists she championed. The exhibiiton includes works by Margaret Olley alongside those of her mentors Caroline Barker and Jean Bellette, her friends Margaret Cilento, William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Moya Dyring, Donald Friend, William Robinson, Jeffrey Smart, David Strachan and Anne Weinholt and new generation of artists whose work she championed including Robert Barnes, Criss Canning, Cressida Campbell, Nicholas Harding and Ben Quilty

Margaret Olley passed away peacefully in her apartment in Sydney in July 2011, after a lifetime as an artist and supporter of arts in Australia. In addition to being a highly esteemed artists, able to command significant figures for her work, Olley was reputedly also a canny real estate investor. This combination of income enabling Olley to provide ongoing support to the arts in Australia in a number of ways, from making purchases of works from emerging artists to assisting with the purchase of significant international works, including Cezanne’s Bords de la Marne in 2008 and Sidney Nolan’s First-Class Marksman in 2010. Olley also assisted financially with the purchase of a Degas artwork for the Gallery of NSW.

Olley was a painter of still life subjects. She was quoted in The Australian, following her death as saying ‘some of the best artists were’. Olley also expressed an interest in being a sculptor and painting landscapes, however appeared able to understand the art that fulfilled both her and her admirers. A critical factor in any successful career as an artist. Olley won the inaugural Mosman Art Prize in 1947. Olley sometimes used a very distinctive painting process – with a board on her lap. She first chalked in a picture, then painted over in acrylic before using oil paint in the final step. Imagery of this technique was shown in the documentary ‘A Life in Paint’.

Margaret Olley – A Life in Paint was an acclaimed documentary created by Catherine Hunter, following Olley as she completed her final set of works in the 18 motnhs leading to her death. Some have claimed these were Olley’s greatest works. The Beagle Press published Margaret Olley, in 2012, based upon interviews and conversation between Olley and author Barry Pearce between 2009 and 2010.

Curated by Renee Porter, this exhibition is organised in association with the Margaret Olley Art Trust.

Image copyrite: MARGARET OLLEY ‘Portrait in the mirror’ Oil on canvas.


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