Thursday, February 19, 2009

A National Treasure


This dear little lady sitting in a corner of her home, looking for all the world like the subject of a painting, is an artist. In fact she is one of Australia's most respected and prized artists. Currently she has an exhibition at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, my state capital, showing pen and watercolour sketches from her travels around the world.

This sketch is of the Brisbane River.

But it is not for this body of work that she is well known. Olley is renowned for her intensely vibrant still lifes. Her paintings show enchanting arrangements of flowers or fruits within her own home, painted from a palette of subtropical colours.

Blue Agapanthus

If you take a look behind the artist you can see that each nook and corner of home is a still life.

Red Hibiscus

While she has been stunning art lovers for over 50 years Margaret Olley came to the public's attention in 1948 when she posed for Dobell's award winning Archibald portrait. In the photo above she is sitting below her portrait.

Poppies and Watermelon

Poppies and checked cloth

Demonstrating a fierce disregard for painting trends and fashions Margaret has always followed her muse. When asked in an interview if it was true that she painted for herself, she retorted "I do. Who would you paint for?" Olley was born in 1923, near Lismore, NSW, making her 86 this year.

Sweet Williams and Plums

Described as the most important twentieth century still life painter in Australia, Olley is also one of the country's biggest art benefactors, establishing a trust in her name to purchase works of art for public collection.
What a lady. She is truly a national treasure.



  1. What an amazing woman! Her work is truly beautiful, and she should be an inspiration to all of us who create art "for myself.: :)

  2. Hi Mary, nice to see you. Did you ever find the card I made for you?

  3. You have done a very nice article about this lady-your page arrangements look fresh and well looked after-are you a patient person?-
    I find that within Australia older people are still so much alive-
    I will have a look at her work this week -I am lucky to be in Brisbane!-
    The post of your daughter is lovely -SAKURA-i might ask her for a translation of this song sung underneath the Chery blossom tree's-I have lived in Japan for two years and consider this city to be one of my favorite's-

  4. Mona: Thank you for the nice remarks. Yes I am learning to be more patient - I did raise 4 kids so learned a little thru' that process!
    But I am rather particular - I like things to present well and look clear and inviting. I'm glad you have looked up Poppy. She will be interested to hear from you, especially since you lived there. I love Japan...and did a long walk in the mountains there last year.

  5. I love those vibrant colours.
    And she has a teapot in most of those paintings!

  6. Violet: Yes they are such homely and comforting scenes aren't they. Tea anyone? I have Japanese green, Earl Grey, Jasmin, or billy tea...

  7. What a fabulous lady, and what fabulous works! Thanks for showing them and - especially - her.

  8. such beautiful masterpieces...i could see her life's resonance in all of the paintings.
    such honesty and sincerity is hard to come by....

  9. Delwyn,
    I got the texture used on "memories" here:

    It is texture "A." Unfortunately, these are not free textures. There are loads of free ones on flickr, though. And textures are not quite as easy as actions. You have to go through several steps to apply them. Here are the instructions I followed:

    Hope this helps. :) And I'm so sorry, but I did not find the card...

  10. What lovely paintings from a lovely lady. Thank you for this post.

  11. What a talented lady...beautiful paintings...thank you for this post. I did not know the name Margaret Olley.

  12. Dave: welcome to my corner, isn't she a character. I want to come and read your poetry - later today. Happy days

  13. Moonshin: hello to you. I see you follow Poppy. Are you a friend of hers?
    Welcome here and I'm coming to look at your place too.

  14. Mary: thanks for taking the trouble to give me that info. You are very sweet. If you go to Gratitude on feb 15 you will find your card.
    Happy days

  15. Hello again rwp, I'm glad you enjoyed meeting Margaret Olley and her joyfilled work. Happy days

  16. Olley is brilliant, thank you for the introduction! I feel nothing but life in this post.

  17. Hi Ruth: Yes there's energetic vibrant life in those 'still lifes' - quite a contradiction in terms.

  18. Fabulous paintings, so lush and vibrant and full of the rich colour of life - I love them.

  19. I'm returning your visit to my blog - oh, so many of the things I love about Margaret Olley is her eccentricity, she lives a very simple and frugal life. But of course, her art is the best...beautiful, bright colourful flowers and nature.


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