Shortly after his work was shown in 1956 in 'Direction I', an exhibition of abstract works, with Robert Klippel, John Passmore, William Rose and Eric Smith, John Olsen travelled to Europe. He went initially to London, then Paris and onto Spain, where he lived mostly on the island of Majorca. During this period he was influenced by the Tachist artists Antonio Tàpies and Jean Dubuffet, as well as Surrealism and Expressionism.
'Spanish encounter' was painted soon after Olsen’s return to Australia in 1960. It encapsulates a vitality stemming from Olsen’s experience of Spain combined with the pulsating activity of Sydney's inner-city life, which struck the artist upon his return. Surging across three panels, gestural black lines are punctuated by bursts of brown, yellow and burnt ochre. These elements exemplify Olsen's commitment to the act of painting as a total experience, fusing process with subject matter.
triptych: oil on hardboard
triptych: 183.0 x 366.0 cm board overall; 185.0 x 367.4 x 5.0 cm frame overall :
a - left panel; 183 x 122 cm; board
b - centre panel; 183 x 122 cm; board
c - right panel; 183 x 122 cm; board
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner right panel [part c], black oil "J.O/ '60".
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 6 exhibitions
John Olsen (1960), Clune Galleries, Sydney, Oct 1960 -
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Mar 1961–23 Apr 1961
Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary (1962-63), National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 17 Mar 1962–31 Mar 1962
John Olsen retrospective (1991-92):
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 01 Nov 1991–02 Feb 1992
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 08 May 1992–28 Jun 1992
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Donde voy: Self portraits in moments of doubt, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 May 2005 -
Referenced in 28 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 126 (colour illus.).
Jennifer Byrne, Bulletin, 'John Olsen', pg. 34-36, Sydney, 03 Aug 2004, 34.
Betty Churcher, Australian notebooks, 'Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 45-90, Carlton, 2014, 78, 80-81 (colour illus.), 82, 254, 255.
Deutscher-Menzies, Sydney and Lawson-Menzies, Deutscher-Menzies & Lawson-Menzies, Sydney: Fine art auction - 10 December 2008, Sydney, 2008, 62, 65 (colour illus.).
Sasha Grishin, Australian art: a history, 'John Olsen and the anxious image', pg. 386-397, Carlton, 2013, 388 (colour illus.), 389, 551, 566. plate no. 37.1
Deborah Hart, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'John Olsen', pg. 196-207, Sydney, 2000, 197, 198 (colour illus., detail), 199 (colour illus.), 203.
Deborah Hart, John Olsen, Sydney, 1991, 45, 49, 51, 52-53 (colour illus.), 175. cat.no. 23
Deborah Hart, Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850–1965 from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, '"Come with me on this journey". John Olsen Journey in the You Beaut Country no. 2', pg. 280-285, Brisbane, 1998, 282.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 162 (colour illus.).
Sandra Jane, Art is ... making, creating and appreciating 2, '1.3 The elements of design', pg. 8-11, Milton, 1999, 8 (colour illus.).
Michael Kessler, The Weekend Australian, 'Spanish encounter', pg. 16-17, Sydney, 05 Jun 2004-06 Jun 2004, 17 (colour illus.).
Christopher Leonard, Art and Australia (Vol. 24, No. 3), 'Art and memory', pg. 369-375, Sydney, Autumn 1987, 369, 371 (illus.).
Patrick McCaughey, Encounters with Australian modern art, 'John Olsen and Jeffrey Smart', pg. 116-128, South Yarra, 2008, 116, 117. General reference
Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 72 (colour illus.).
Hal Missingham, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Acquisitions for 1960', pg. 58-67, Sydney, Apr 1961, 58, 64 (illus.).
Belinda Oxley, Read-to-go Art Picture pack, Glebe, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 7
Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 249 (colour illus.), 301.
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 32.
Barry Pearce, Fifteen decades of Australian paintings, Sydney, 1981, (colour illus.).
Simon Pierse, Art and Australia (Vol. 47, No. 1), 'A horse designed by a committee: Revisiting the Tate's 1963 survey of Australian painting', pg. 118-125, Sydney, 2009, 5 (colour illus., detail), 122-123 (colour illus.).
Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 11: John Olsen 'Spanish encounter' 1960
Sebastian Smee, The Weekend Australian, 'Master of his domain', pg. 18-19, Sydney, 13 Aug 2005-14 Aug 2005, 19.
Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 9-111, 17, (colour illus.). colour plate no. 5
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Darkness in the light: a fresh focus on the art of John Olsen', pg. 14-17, Sydney, Apr 2005, 14-15 (colour illus.), 16.
The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Australian Painitng: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary', Adelaide, 1962. not paginated; cat.no. 165
Editor Unknown (Editor), Nation, Sydney, 08 Oct 1960.
Editor Unknown, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 06 Oct 1960.
Editor Unknown (Editor), Sun Herald, Sydney, 06 Oct 1960.