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Margaret Olley
, 1995

by Adam Knott

type C photograph (sheet: 39.2 cm x 39.2 cm, image: 38.0 cm x 38.0 cm)

Margaret Olley AC (1923–2011), painter, was born in Lismore and studied art at East Sydney Technical College and the Grande Chaumière in Paris. She was well-known on the Sydney post-war art scene and her portrait was painted by both Russell Drysdale and William Dobell. Dobell’s portrait of Olley, dressed in a gown fashioned from surplus wartime parachute silk, won the 1948 Archibald Prize. Olley held her first one-person show that year. It was a sell-out, and from that beginning, she held at least one solo exhibition annually. The Art Gallery of New South Wales honoured her long career with a major retrospective show in 1996–1997. In 1990, she endowed the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust, which has funded acquisitions by many Australian institutions including the National Portrait Gallery. One of Sydney’s most recognisable arts identities, in 2011 she was again the subject of an Archibald Prize-winning portrait, this time by Ben Quilty. In March 2014, almost three years after Olley’s death at age 88, the Tweed Regional Gallery opened its Margaret Olley Centre, which includes re-creations of rooms from the late artist’s legendary Sydney home.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of The Hammond Care Group 1999
Accession number: 2002.40