Gallery of Modern Art, Foyer & Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery)
'A Generous Life’ examines the legacy and influence of much-loved Australian artist, Margaret Olley (1923–2011) who spent a formative part of her career in Brisbane. A charismatic character, she exerted a lasting impact on many artists as a mentor and friend and was also a muse for artists including William Dobell and Jeffrey Smart. The exhibition will profile a life that was immersed in art – her own and those she supported.
Discover more about Margaret Olley with our extensive range of related events, listed below, including talks and tours, to pop-up performances, hands-on workshops and Up Late events. There’s also daily guided tours of the exhibition at 11.00am.
Margaret Olley was born in Lismore in 1923 before moving to Brisbane where her love for painting was nurtured by school teacher and Melbourne National Gallery School trained artist Caroline Barker. In 1942 Olley moved to Sydney and enrolled at the East Sydney Technical College (later the National Art School) where she graduated with first-class honours. Olley then spent her time travelling abroad and living between Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney.
At the age of 10, Margaret Olley moved to Brisbane where her journey to becoming an artist began. She was a boarder from 1937 to 1940 at South Brisbane’s Somerville House for girls, where she met fellow student Margaret Cilento. In 1953 Olley returned from travelling abroad to the family home in Hill End. The old Queenslander house, Farndon, would play a pivotal role in her life, tying her to Brisbane for many years with it’s calm presence of high-ceilinged, generous rooms and lush subtropical garden.
STILL LIFE AND PORTRAITURE
Margaret Olley painted in many different styles, but was best known for her still lifes and portraits. Her lifelong love of nature found expression in exuberant paintings of flora, which charmed the public and the critics. Olley’s self-portraits track her artistic life from beginning to end as she captured her reflection in mirrors and depicts her personal possessions. As the years progressed, Olley’s physical image in her self-portraits receded into the interior spaces, with the room surpassing her reflected image in importance.
In 1990 Margaret Olley established the Margaret Olley Art Trust to donate works of art to public collections throughout Australia. Olley was an important benefactor and tremendous supporter of QAGOMA and her gift of a bronze sculpture of Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot by Edgar Degas is a lasting legacy to the people of Queensland. The exhibition highlights a selection of works she bought then generously gifted to public institutions, including pictures by European artists Paul Cezanne, Pierre Bonnard, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Edouard Vuillard and others.
OLLEY AND QUILTY
Also showing at GOMA at the same time is ‘Quilty'. Australian artist Ben Quilty met Margaret Olley when she was a guest judge for the 2002 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, which he won. Olley then became a friend and supporter of his work, and, in 2011 sat for a portrait by Quilty which won the Archibald Prize in 2011.