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Margaret Olley: Interior

Margaret Olley: Interior & Kitchen Door

Ben Quilty and Margaret Olley at GOMA

The Artist

Courtesy of Trove: Margaret Olley is known as one of Austrlia's most prized interior and still life painters. She first came to public attention as the subject of Sir William Dobell's winning Archibald portrait in 1948. In 1997 her work was the subject of a major retrospective organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Margaret Olley was born on the 22nd June 1923 in Lismore, NSW, eldest of three children of Joseph Olley and Grace (nee Temperley). Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Tully in Queensland, then to Murwillumbah (NSW) before finally settling in Brisbane. Margaret was educated at Somverville House. She was taught art by Caroline Barker, an enthusiastic teacher quick to recognise her ability. She spent a year at Brisbane Central Technical College before going onto study at the East Sydney Tech, graduating in 1945. During this time, Olley painted sets for John Kay of the Mercury Theatre Group and in 1947 designed sets for Sam Hughes and worked closely with Sidney Nolan . From 1944, Margaret exhibited paintings at the Royal Queensland Art Society  and in Sydney.  By 1948, Margaret was exhibiting her works in solo exhibitions at the Maquarie Galleries, Sydney and Morton Galleries, Brisbane. Her painting also won the inaugural Mosman Prize for art in 1947.

Like many of her contempories, Margaret Olley spent time travelling around Europe. she studied art at Le Grande Chaumiere, Paris and exhibited paintings in Paris in 1952. Returning to Brisbane in 1953, Margaret was commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery  to paint a mural of the place de la Concorde, Paris for an up coming French art exhibition. This led to other commissions coming in a pipeline of work.

Marage Olley subsequently travelled the globe gaining inspiration for her bold still-life paintings and viewing exhibitions of classic artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Miro and Manet. Margaret is regarded as a generous benefactor, having donated many of her works of art to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  In 1990 she established the Margaret Hannah Olley Trust  to produce other artists' works for public donation. IN 1994, Olley's generosity to the gallery was celebrated in the exhibition to which she donated works of Donald Friend, Arthur Boyd, Walter Sickert, Egar, Duncan Grand ad Mathew Smith.

Margaret earned countless art prizes and awards for her many works of art shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions globally. In 2006 Margaret was elevated to Companion of the Order of Australia for her services as one of Australia's most distinguished artists, her support and philanthropy to the visual and performing arts and her encouragement of young and emerging artists. In 2007 she was appointed a Fellow of the National Art School. Margaret Olley passed away on 25th July 2011 in Sydney.

Interior by Margaret Olley

The Works of art:

The two works of art by Margaret Olley held by the University of Canberra are of domestic interior scenes very typlical of her style. A sense of realism perhaps is invoked in both pictures from the time when Margaret painted theatrical sets. Interior was painted in 1976 and shows a small room with an assemblage of furniture highlighted by sunlight streaming in from an open window. There is a rather homely feel to the room with a small allusion to Van Gogh as a pair of wooden chairs by the fire-place takes centre-stage. Kitchen-door on the other-hand, was painted in 1973 and is an interesting composition of still-life subjects. Much like 'interior', the composition of dried flowers and herbs, jugs, bowl of fruit provides that homely feel. The door is partly ajar which emphasizes the scene as a working environment. The dark reds and browns clash with the cooler blue walls and provide an element of warmth to the pictures.

Although these are the only two works of art by Margaret Olley in the University's Art Collection, they can be compared with other interior scenes and still life works within the Art Collection. They certainly highlight the diverse range of the post modern and contemporary styles within the Art Collection- something well worth exploring.