Loudon Sainthill had an exhibition opening, and on the invitation he had written: ‘Darling Oll, come dressed as a duchess’. I didn’t have anything to wear, so a friend gave me his grandmother’s wedding dress sleeves and helped me make an extravagant dress from ex-war supply parachute silk … Dobell said he’d like to paint a portrait of me, so I went to his flat the next week.
Margaret Olley, 1990
This is one of William Dobell’s finest and best-loved portraits, depicting his fellow artist and a beloved figure of Australian art, Margaret Olley. Echoing the spirit of Gainsborough and Renoir, this painting marked Dobell’s return to portraiture, for which he was awarded his second Archibald Prize.
Olley modelled for Dobell’s sketches in a plain dress with only a hat for ornament, but Dobell based his painting on the extravagant outfit the young artist had worn to an exhibition opening.
This painting won the Archibald Prize in 1948 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1949
oil on hardboard
114.3 x 85.7 cm board; 148.0 x 118.5 x 12.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. corner, white oil "WILLIAM DOBELL 48".
© Courtesy Sir William Dobell Art Foundation.
Shown in 22 exhibitions
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Competitions for 1948, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Jan 1949–07 Mar 1949
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1949, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Dec 1949–17 Feb 1950
Jubilee exhibition of Australian art:
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 12 Mar 1951–31 Mar 1951
- Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Launceston 09 Apr 1951–28 Apr 1951
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 25 Jun 1951–21 Jul 1951
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 06 Aug 1951–01 Sep 1951
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 24 Sep 1951–20 Oct 1951
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australia 12 Nov 1951–10 Dec 1951
A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Sep 1953–25 Oct 1953
Artists by artists (1954), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Nov 1954–05 Dec 1954
New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship 1900 to 1956, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Apr 1956 -
The Arts Festival of the Olympic Games (1956), National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne, 18 Nov 1956–15 Dec 1956
The art of William Dobell (1959), Finney's Art Gallery, Brisbane, 11 Aug 1959–11 Sep 1959
Dobell loan exhibition, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, 22 Jun 1960–30 Jul 1960
William Dobell: Paintings from 1926 - 1964 (1964), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Jul 1964–30 Aug 1964
William Dobell: an exhibition of selected works (1965), Qantas Gallery, London, London, 14 Sep 1965–16 Oct 1965
Uncommon Australians: Towards an Australian Portrait Gallery:
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 06 May 1992–28 Jun 1992
- National Gallery of Australia, Parkes 10 Jul 1992–09 Aug 1992
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 25 Aug 1992–20 Sep 1992
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 22 Oct 1992–22 Nov 1992
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 03 Dec 1992–31 Jan 1993
The Drawings of William Dobell in the Australian National Gallery (1993), David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, Sydney, 01 Apr 1993–25 Apr 1993
Margaret Olley Retrospective (1996-97):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 25 Oct 1996–05 Jan 1997
- Brisbane City Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Brisbane 17 Jan 1997–23 Feb 1997
- Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle 19 Apr 1997–08 Jun 1997
William Dobell the painter's progress (1997-1998):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Feb 1997–27 Apr 1997
- Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle 07 May 1997–06 Jul 1997
- Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Bulleen 29 Jul 1997–21 Sep 1997
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 25 Oct 1997–07 Dec 1997
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 08 Jan 1998–01 Mar 1998
A Tribute to William Dobell (1999), Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra, 02 Sep 1999–03 Oct 1999
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Wellconnected - Dobell & Company, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Booragul, 12 May 2001–17 Jun 2001
Well connected: Dobell & company, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Booragul, 12 May 2001–17 Jun 2001
Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart (2002), S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 12 Jan 2002–24 Feb 2002
Breaking new ground: Brisbane women artists of the mid-twentieth century, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane, 27 Jul 2007–30 Sep 2007
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Referenced in 73 publications
Brian Adams, Portrait of an artist: A biography of William Dobell, Melbourne, 1983, 235-239. plate no. 15
Adelaide Festival of Arts, The Third Adelaide Festival of Arts 1964: Souvenir programme, Adelaide, 1964, 42 (illus.). The caption reads: 'This painting is included in the exhibition of Famous Australians by Famous Australian Artists at the National Gallery of South Australia.', however, in the catalogue to the exhibition this work is not listed.
Herbert Badham, A study of Australian art, Sydney, 1949, (illus.). plate no. 69
Herbert Badham, A gallery of Australian art, 'Introduction', pg. v-vii., Sydney, 1954, xii, xv, (colour illus.). plate no. 37
Scott Bevan, Bill: the life of William Dobell, 'The place of much water', pg. 194-229, Cammeray, 2014, 303, 225, 240, 241 (colour illus.), 393.
Tony Bonyhady, The Australian's Review of Books, 'With heads held high', pg. 14-16, Sydney, Jun 1999, 15.
Professor Joseph Burke, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art in Australia', pg. 10, Sydney, 04 Feb 1954, 10 (illus.).
Helen Campbell, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Sydney: city and hinterlands', pg. 185-186, Sydney, 2000, 186, 192, 193 (colour illus.), 300.
Louise Chamberlin, Art In Sight, Sydney, 1996, 141, 144, 145, 149, 151, 155, 171.
Betty Churcher, Australian notebooks, 'Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 45-90, Carlton, 2014, 86 (colour illus.), 254. colour illustration detail opposite contents page
Betty Churcher, Hidden treasures with Betty Churcher: Episode 14, Canberra, 2007. Broadcast 24 May 2007 on ABC-TV at 6:50pm William Dobell's sketchbooks allow us to see the artist's unformed ideas gradually take shape and give us an insight into what Dobell wanted out of his paintings. Dobell's painting 'Margaret Olley' is featured, together with preliminary sketches and drawings in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
Yve Close, Joshua Smith: artist 1905-1995, 'The Archibald Prize', pg. 33-46, New South Wales, 1998, 41.
Glenn R. Cooke, The world of Antiques & Art, 'Margaret Olley: a tribute for her 80th year', pg. 24-34, Bondi Junction, Feb 2003-Jul 2003, 32.
Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'William Dobell 1899-1970 The Painter's Progress', pg. 18-19, Sydney, Feb 1997-Apr 1997, 19 (colour illus.).
Our Staff Correspondent., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Our art is 'years behind'', Sydney, 17 Oct 1952, (illus.).
Anne Crawford, Age, 'Irrepressible "Oll"', pg. 1, 3., Melbourne, 05 Sep 2002, 1. In section 'TheCulture'.
Our Art Critic, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Dobell's portrait and a photo of Margaret Olley'; 'Rival of Dobell helped him win Archibald Prize; Work was nearly scrapped'; 'William Dobell's whirlwind portrait', pg. 3, Sydney, 22 Jan 1949, 3 (illus.).
Prue Davidson, Antipodes: antiques & fine art [vol. 1, no. 2], 'Truth and beauty: the portraits of William Dobell', pg. 35-43, Victoria, 1997, 39, 40 (colour illus.), 42, 43.
Rob Ditessa', Artist's palette, 'Icons on show', pg. 54-59, Sydney, 2000, 58 (colour illus.).
Elizabeth Donaldson, William Dobell: an artist's life, 'Recovery at Wangi', pg. 93-109, New South Wales, 2010, 107, 108 (colour illus.), 109, 153 (illus.), 198 (colour illus.). NOTE: Illustration on page 153 is a panorama photograph of the 1964 Dobell Retrospective
Elizabeth Donaldson and Robert Donaldson, William Dobell: his life, art and home, 'Tragic fate of artist Dobell', pg. 57-58, New South Wales, 2011, 57, 59 (colour illus.), 75, 85 (illus.), 136. NOTE: Illustration on page 85 is a panorama photograph of the 1964 Dobell Retrospective
Douglas Dundas, Art Gallery of New South Wales quarterly, 'The Wynne and Sulman prizes', pg. 53-56, Sydney, Jan 1961, 54.
Mary Eagle, A tribute to William Dobell, 'The Strength of Life', Canberra, 1999, 14, 16 (colour illus.), 17,19, 57.
Elizabeth Fortesque, Daily telegraph, 'Master strokes', pg. 124, Sydney, 22 Jul 2000, 124 (colour illus.). Review of the 'Australian Icons' exhibition.
James Gleeson, William Dobell, London, 1964, 88, 89 (colour illus.), 90. plate no. XIX
James Gleeson, The drawings of William Dobell in the Australian National Gallery, 'The draughtsman as artist', pg. 6-17, Canberra, 1992, 8 (colour illus.), 10-11, 54, 62. fig.no. 4
Sasha Grishin, Australian art: a history, 'The triumph of modernism', pg. 264-273, Carlton, 2013, 270, 271 (colour illus.), 550, 559. plate no. 27.4
Janet Hawley, Good weekend, 'Queen of subjects', pg. 34-41, Broadway, 25 Mar 1995, 36, 37 (colour illus.), 38. Reproduction of Margaret Olley sitting amongst portraits of her painted by other artists, including William Dobell.
Peter Haynes (Compilator), Famous people: a selective who's who from works in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1981, 11 (illus.).
Anna Waldmann, The Archibald Prize: an illustrated history 1921-1981, Sydney, 1981, 225 (colour illus.).
Susan Hunt, The Archibald Prize 1921-1993, Sydney, 1993, 16 (colour illus.).
Jane Hylton, William Dobell: portraits in context, 'William Dobell: a brief biography', pg. 30-32, Kent Town, 2003, 30.
Glenis Israel, Art Wise - Visual Arts years 7-10, Queensland, 1997, 21, 34, 52, 118, 122, 126, 129, 146, 148.
Glenis Israel, Artwise: visual arts 7-10, Milton, 2004, 23 (colour illus.), 24-25.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 157 (colour illus.).
George H. Johnson, Sun, 'Dobell may settle in New Guinea', pg. 11, Sydney, 25 Oct 1949, 11.
Erik Langker, Art Gallery of New South Wales quarterly, 'The Archibald prize', pg. 51-56, Sydney, Jan 1961, 52 (illus.).
Tatlock Miller; 'Dobell finds his Mona Lisa'., Sun, 'Dobell wins both big art prizes' by Tatlock Miller; 'Difference on Dobell canvas'; 'Dobell and his model' [includes photograph of Dobell in his Kings Cross flat after winning the Archibald Prize, and inset photograph of Margaret Olley]; 'Dobell's portrait a masterpiece', Sydney, 22 Jan 1949, (illus.). page unknown, newspaper clipping in Worksheet files
J.S. MacDonald., Daily Mirror, 'Dobell's winning picture criticised', Sydney, 01 Mar 1949.
Ian McCausland (Editor), Mercury, 'Patricia gets into art of being a volunteer', pg. 1, Hobart, 06 Dec 1997, 1 (colour illus.).
Margaret Meagher (Editor), State of the arts, 'AGNSW polishes the silver', pg. 12, Sydney, Aug 2000-Dec 2000, 12 (colour illus.). Review of 'Australian Icons' exhibition.
Hal Missingham, William Dobell, Brisbane, 1959. cat.no. 32; not paginated
Hal Missingham, They kill you in the end, 'Trustees', pg. 24-44, Sydney, 1973, 37-38.
Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. NOTE: No catalogue numbers; Margaret Olley selection.
Desmond O'Shaughnessy, Art and medicine: reminiscences & reflections of a retiring surgeon, 'Postlude', pg. 79-87, Melbourne, 1999, 85 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, The Weekend Australian, 'Time makes its judgment', pg. 2-3, Sydney, 12 Aug 2000-13 Aug 2000, 2 (colour illus.). This colour supplement is a 'Review Special' published for the 'Weekend Australian'. It consists of a four-page, colour wrap-around for the 'Weekend Australian Review'. 'The Australian' was the media sponsor for the AGNSW Exhibition 'Australian Icons', for the Olympic Arts Festival 2000.
Barry Pearce, Margaret Olley, Sydney, 1996, 24 (illus.).
Barry Pearce, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'William Dobell', pg. 76-87, Sydney, 2000, 83-84, 86 (colour illus.), 87 (colour illus., detail).
Barry Pearce, William Dobell - the painter's progress, 'Introduction', pg. 9-22, Sydney, 1997, cover (colour illus., detail), 11, 74, 90, 91 (colour illus., detail), 92, 93 (colour illus.), 94, 143 (colour illus., detail), 144. cat.no. 29a
Roland Pullen., Daily telegraph and daily news, 'Famous canvases in stricken freighter', Sydney, 29 Dec 1952. Reference to Australian artworks exhibited in the United States of America.
Stephen Rainbird, Breaking new ground: Brisbane women artists of the mid twentieth century, Brisbane, 2007, 6 (colour illus.), 7, 68.
Robin Robertson., The Weekend Australian financial review, 'ABN Amro teaches the art of "quiet" sponsorship', Sydney, 05 Aug 2000-06 Aug 2000, (colour illus.). page number unknown
Peter Ross, Let's face it: the history of the Archibald Prize, 'Chapter 3: The postwar years', pg. 38-60, Sydney, 2005, 38, 39 (colour illus.), 40, 138 (colour illus.).
Peter Ross, Let's face it: the history of the Archibald Prize, 'The Postwar Years', pg. 40-62, Sydney, 1999, 40, 41 (colour illus.), 128 (colour illus.).
Meryl Ryan, Well connected: Dobell and company, 'The journey', pg. 5-6, Lake Macquarie, 2001, 4 (colour illus.). cat.no. 6
Geoffrey Scott., Bulletin, 'Dobell: retrospective, introspective', Sydney, 25 Jul 1964. Under section 'Out and about'.
Meg Stewart, Margaret Olley: far from a still life, Milsons Point, 2005, 201-204, between 302 & 303 (colour illus.), 303.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Australian modern masterpieces: from the Art Gallery of New South Wales 10 December 2011 - 4 March 2012', pg. 8-9, Sydney, Dec 2011-Jan 2012, 9 (colour illus.). Advertisement for Newcastle venue of the touring exhibition of Australian art from the AGNSW collection.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Spotlight on Olley', pg. 9, Sydney, Dec 2005-Jan 2006, 9 (colour illus., detail). Photograph of Margaret Olley and Barry Humphries standing in front of Dobell's portrait at the launch of Meg Steward's book about the artist.
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Playing favourites with the Archibald', pg. 18-21, Sydney, May 2002, 21 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, 'Ben, Margaret and the Archibald', pg. 10, Sydney, Jun 2011, 10 (illus.).
Laurence Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'William Dobell', pg. 3-5, Sydney, Oct 1959, cover (illus.), 3.
Laurie Thomas (Editor), Jubilee exhibition of Australian art, Sydney, 1951, 43. cat.no. 127
Tony Tuckson, New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship 1900 to 1956, Sydney, 1956, 8. cat.no. 10
two votes'., Daily telegraph and daily news, 'Archibald Prize to Dobell, Sydney, 22 Jan 1949. page unknown, newspaper clipping in Worksheet files
Anna Waldmann, Art and Australia (Vol. 20, No. 2), 'The Archibald Prize', pg. 213-236, Sydney, Summer 1982, 225 (colour illus.).
Judith White, Australian art collector, 'Yours sincerely: William Dobell', pg. 56-59, Sydney, Apr 2000-Jun 2000, 59.
Margaret Whitlam, Uncommon Australians: towards an Australian portrait gallery, 'Margaret Olley', Sydney, 1992, 91 (colour illus.). cat.no. 58
Kenneth Wilkinson., Daily telegraph and daily news, 'Sitter likes her Dobell portrait, but critics do not'; 'Dobell is streets ahead', Sydney, 23 Jan 1949, (illus.). page unknown, newspaper clippings in Worksheet files
Ross Woodrow, William Dobell: hard drawing, Newcastle, 2007, 8, 9 (colour illus.), 49, 69. NOTE: this work was not included in the exhibition.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Bulletin, 'Dobell's double', Sydney, 29 Jan 1949. Under section 'Sundry Shows'.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Daily Mirror, 'Dobell's kick at high tax'; 'Dobell's picture is big draw at Art Gallery', Sydney, 22 Jan 1949.
Author Unknown, William Dobell: the painters progress, Sydney, 1997, (illus.).