Art Wednesday: Margaret Olley

Artist: Margaret Hannah Olley (24 June 1923 – 26 July 2011)

Born: Lismore, Australia
Still life painter (she liked to be called a painter rather than an artist!)

Todays Art Wednesday is in memory to Margaret Olley (pictured above) who died at her home in Paddington yesterday (26th July) at the aged 88. She was one of our great artists, in particular best known for her flower still life.

Olley loved to paint and continued almost up to the day she died—she was completing work for a solo show due to open in September. A busy lady, she held more than 90 solo exhibitions (the first in 1948). On 10 June 1991, in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, Olley was made a Member of the Order of Australia 'for service as an artist and to the promotion of art'. On 12 June 2006, she was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order, 'for service as one of Australia's most distinguished artists, for support and philanthropy to the visual and performing arts, and for encouragement of young and emerging artists'. In 2006 she donated more works to the Art Gallery of New South Wales; her donations included more than 130 works worth $7 million.  She was known for her generosity.

She battled alcohol in her early years and depression in later but defeated both.  She was an outspoken woman who voiced her views when necessary!  My favourite is the very last one called "wildflowers".

Olley said "When the end approaches, I might say to the good Lord: 'Just one minute. I haven't finished that painting'. " Painting was her passion and the only thing she ever wanted to do.  She also loved classical music and said "I couldn't exist without it. It sort of transports you to another world."
Cornflowers with Pomegranates, 1991
Untitled (Daisies), 1976
Green and Gold, 1970
Anemones in a Green Jug, 1989
Untitled (interior), 1972
Jersey Road Paddington, 1965
Kitchen Dresser with Wildflowers II, 1972
Ranuculus and Watermelon, 1973
Red Hibiscus, 1978
Still life with gumnuts and apples, Elizabeth Bay, 2000
Wildflowers, 1972

And I JUST love this quote from Margaret Olley's book: 

I’ve never liked housework.  I get by doing little chores when I feel like them, in between paintings.  Who wants to chase dust all their life?  You can spend your whole lifetime cleaning the house.  I like watching the patina grow.  If the house looks dirty, buy another bunch of flowers, is my advice.

For more paintings by Margaret Olley: Link



  1. I knew you would feature her today!! :) I don't know if I've ever seen her work before, but it's quite beautiful! I particularly like the red flower ones - the Red Hibiscus and the Ranunculus and Watermelon. :)

  2. Her work Clara is beautiful - very gentle and feminine - I also love the watermelon painting, reminds me of summer. If you ever visit the NSW Art Gallery you will see some of the pieces she donated.

    Considering she died yesterday I thought it was very timely to remember her wonderful contribution to Australian art.

  3. I couldn't help but give a little chuckle on Ms. Olley's quote. :) I like when she says, "You can't chase dust all your life!" Ha, ha! Since I loathe dusting, I couldn't agree with her more. :)

    At any rate, Ms. Olley's has some lovely still life paintings. The paintings, "Untitled (Interior)," and "Kitchen Dresser with Wildflowers," were my favorite. I just like the details and colors that she used for these paintings.

    It's a shame that she has passed-on. She sounded like one interesting and unique lady.

  4. Well thank you again...this is just great and so inspiring. I am going to have to look her up and see more of her work. What an interesting and talented lady...thanks so much for sharing...I am always so inspired and impressed...thanks for sharing your passion.

  5. She was quite a character wasn't she, ?!
    I like the colours ands subjects in her work too.

  6. Wonderful - what an incredible artist! I love the red hibiscus!

  7. I never liked housework either and would love to paint instead. I would if I had the budget and time to do it. I wonder if she knew the Lord.

    Wildflowers is stunning. I like the lighting in daisies and anemones ~ as if we could go arrange the flowers then look to the left out of a window. Very nice.

  8. She did bring flowers to life.


Post a Comment