Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vale: Margaret Olley

Sad news today with the death of the revered Australian artist Margaret Olley. Her still-life works often captured the warmth and light of her home in Paddington, and she was still painting  in her 88th year. I had seen her numerous times at social events or openings in Sydney. You always wish in retrospect you'd gone up and introduced yourself and discussed the motivation for her choice of colours. Maybe she would have been cantankerous or intensely private, but I guess now I'll never know. One undeniable fact is the impact her body of work will have on future generations of aspiring artists... or those who'll simply find quiet solace in her brushstrokes. 

I admire her courage during a stiflingly conservative period. Travelling to East Sydney Tech (from Lismore via Brisbane) to study, she eventually became the subject for William Dobell's winning entry in the Archibald Prize of 1948 . This was followed up by Ben Quilty's entry in 2011. There's a wonderful resonance with her life. It starts with her exploration of painting in Sydney and her close friendships with some of Australia's brightest artistic luminaries. She became one of our great benefactors to the arts. Her donations to The Art Gallery of NSW and The MCA built upon her own legacy as much as they reflect the talents of many other notable artists. Rest well. 

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