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Margaret Olley
, 1998

by Lewis Morley

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 30.5 cm x 40.2 cm, image: 24.1 cm x 36.6 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. In 1991 she reprised her success of 43 years before, when a show of 35 of her intimate, brilliantly-coloured interiors and still lifes sold out again. The Art Gallery of New South Wales held a major retrospective show of her long career in 1996–1997. Her work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia; all State galleries; and numerous regional, corporate and private collections. In 1990, she endowed the Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust, which has funded acquisitions by many Australian institutions including the National Portrait Gallery. Remaining one of Sydney’s most recognisable arts identities, Olley was again the subject of an Archibald Prize-winning portrait, this time by Ben Quilty, in 2011. She and Morley were introduced to each other by Barry Humphries, and became close friends.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2003.50