Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vale Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley, Portrait in the mirror, 1948
It's been just four months since Australia's much loved artist Margaret Olley attended the controversial Archibald Prize when the portrait of her by artist Ben Quilty won Australia's richest art prize for portraiture.
Dobell's portrait of Olley

But it was also the second time a portrait of Margaret had won the Archibald-the first was in 1948 when William Dobell took the gong and launched he and Olley on the road to art celebrity.

Margaret with Ben Quilty in April
Today Margaret passed away at the age of 88 in her Paddington terrace. She'll be sorely missed. No event at the NSW Art Gallery was complete without Margaret shuffling through the crowd with her walking frame-bell ringing incessantly if anyone dared to momentarily impede her trajectory.

Olley was an icon who held over 90 shows during her life. Her paintings brought the largest price for an Australian living artist and she leaves a legacy of work behind, painting right up until the end. She also left a mass of works to the NSW Art Gallery, nearly seven million dollars worth and donated her own collection of masters including 3 Cezannes and a Picasso. When she purchased the Cezanne at auction in London she thought it looked rather lonely so snapped up 2 more saying "three makes a better statement".

Olley never married and once said in an interview that she liked to be "a one-woman band, too independent to be subservient to anyone". She loved helping new young talent and to that end has left a trust fund of a million dollars to assist budding young painters.