Important Australian + International Fine Art
26 November 2008

Margaret Olley

born 1923

oil on composition board

75.5 x 101.5 cm

signed and dated lower right: Olley 63

$35,000 - 45,000

The Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane
Private collection, Sydney


The Art of Margaret Olley, S.H.Ervin Gallery, National Trust of Australia (NSW), Sydney, 3 Aug – 9 Sept, 1990, cat 15 (label attached verso) (Exhibition opening coincided with launch of: France, C., Margaret Olley, Craftsman House, Sydney, originally published 1990)

Catalogue text

Of warm personality and individuality, Margaret Olley has many friends, especially among fellow artists. Her friendships with David Strachan and Donald Friend were among the closest and most enduring. Olley met Strachan in the early 1940s, at Jean Bellette's life classes at the East Sydney Technical College (now the National Art School). Her introduction to Friend was through the small circle of artists living in Sydney at the time. They included Russell Drysdale, Justin O'Brien, Loudon Sainthill, and her friend from art school days, Anne Weinholt. With Strachan and others, she helped paint theatrical sets for the 1947 production of James Elroy Flecker's Hassan. In 1948, she made several visits to Hill End near Bathurst staying and painting with Friend, whose pen and wash drawing of Olley dates from this time. William Dobell and Drysdale also painted her portrait, Olley becoming a national figure when Dobell's portrait won the 1948 Archibald Prize. Leaving for Europe in 1949, Olley joined Strachan and other expatriate artists in Paris, painting, studying, visiting galleries, dining and debating the evenings through. Strachan joined her on painting trips and visits to Cassis, Brittany and Lisbon, before she came back to Australia in 1953.

Strachan eventually returned from Europe in 1960. In 1962 he settled at 163 Paddington Street, his home for the remainder of his life. Olley visited him frequently and painted in his house. The View from David Strachan's Kitchen belongs to this time, a characteristic view over backyards and rooftops. Three years later, Strachan painted a similar view, Paddington Backyards, in a private collection. Olley's painting is a pleasing reminder of her ability as a landscape painter as first seen in those 1940s and 1950s landscapes of Hill End, North Sydney, Brittany, Paris and Cassis. The quality of these paintings reminds one that Lloyd Rees as judge awarded Olley the 1947 Mosman Art Prize for her painting, New England Landscape. When Strachan died suddenly in a car accident in 1970, Olley was devastated. During the following year, she painted a large number of works in Strachan's Paddington house. Under the title Homage, they were shown at Brian Johnstone's Brisbane gallery in 1972, a deeply moving tribute from one artist-friend to another.