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An image of Spanish encounter by John Olsen

John Olsen

(Australia, England, Spain, Portugal 21 Jan 1928 – )

Spanish encounter
Place of origin
SydneyNew South WalesAustralia
Media category
Materials used
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".
Purchased 1960
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

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.

Bibliography (28)

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, Roseville, 2000, 197, 198 (colour illus., detail), 199 (colour illus.), 203.

Deborah Hart, John Olsen, East Roseville, 1991, 45, 49, 51, 52-53 (colour illus.), 175. 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, Surry Hills, 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, Paddington, 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, Surry Hills, 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, Newtown, Apr 2005, 14-15 (colour illus.), 16.

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.

The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Australian Painitng: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary', Adelaide, 1962. not paginated; 165

Exhibition history (6)

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):

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 -