Margaret Olley: A Generous Life

Margaret Olley Yellow Room Triptych 2007 AARA deeply charismatic figure, mentor and friend, who exerted an enduring influence on a number of Australian artists, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) presents Margaret Olley: A Generous Life on display from 15 June 2019.

Featuring more than 100 works, 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 highlights Olley’s formative years spent in Brisbane, explored through a number of early post-war paintings featuring Farndon, her family home in Brisbane’s Hill End, and iconic landmarks such as St Paul’s Terrace (Spring Hill), 1946; Breakfast Creek Hotel, 1946; and the Queensland Treasury Building, 1947.

A Generous Life highlights Olley’s enduring love of travel and her passion for portraiture, still life and interiors. It includes many examples of her painted by other artists, including William Dobell and Jeffrey Smart, and a selection of works she bought then generously gifted to public institutions, including pictures by European artists Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Edouard Vuillard and others.

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.

A Generous Life will engage audiences in a richly colourful journey exploring the legacy and influence of Margaret Olley – one of Australia’s much-loved artists,” says Chris Saines, QAGOMA Director.

Margaret Olley was born in Lismore in 1923 and later attended boarding school at Somerville House, Brisbane where her love for painting was nurtured by teacher and Melbourne National Gallery School trained artist Caroline Barker.

Olley was enrolled at Brisbane Central Technical College in 1941 and in 1942 she moved to Sydney and enrolled in a diploma of art at 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.

Initially she was represented by the Johnstone Gallery in Brisbane and then Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane, until her passing in 2011. She is fondly remembered as an outspoken, clever, gregarious, generous and utterly unique character.


Margaret Olley: A Generous Life
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Exhibition: 15 June – 13 October 2019
Free admission

For more information, visit: www.qagoma.qld.gov.au for details.

Image: Margaret Olley, Yellow Room triptych, 2007. Oil on board / 138 × 290cm. Purchased through The Yellow Room Appeal, 2013. Collection: New England Regional Art Museum

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