"If the bow is properly pulled a line will not only have a vitality of its own but will embrace the void of the paper. The line shall ask questions; push and pull me this way and that, find a force that will compliment or contrast. A good drawing is the reconciliation, a bad drawing is the waste of it". (John Olsen, quoted in Deborah Hart 'John Olsen – encounters with drawing', Sydney: Australian Galleries, 1987)
This drawing was made the year John Olsen returned to Sydney after a period living in rural Spain; he found the city an invigorating contrast to the culture in which he had immersed himself. Included among many distinctive characteristics he noted on his return was the quality of light, the energy of the people and the urban landscape. He made a number of exuberant, complex drawings and paintings at this time, expressing his imaginative response to the vitality of life in Sydney.
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004
charcoal, watercolour, gouache on ivory wove paper
67.3 x 92.7 cm sheet; 83.0 x 108.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., pencil "John Olsen/ 60".
Gift of Terry Clune and the artist 1960
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Mar 1961–23 Apr 1961
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
Two hundred years of Australian painting : Nature, people and art in the southern continent:
Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s:
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Referenced in 9 publications
Jean Campbell, Australian watercolour painters 1780-1980, Adelaide, 1983, 197 (colour illus.).
Jean Campbell, Australian watercolour painters: 1780 to the present day, 'The 1950s and 1960s: Sydney and the abstract painters', pg. 198-213, Sydney, 1989, 211 (colour illus.).
Dennis Colsey and Hal Missingham, One hundred years of Australian landscape painting: Art Gallery of New South Wales Travelling Art Exhibition 1968, Sydney, 1968, 27 (illus.). cat.no. 34
Deborah Hart, John Olsen, Sydney, 1991, 56 (illus.). fig.no. 12
Deborah Hart, Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850–1965 from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, '"Come with me on this journey". John Olsen Journey into the You Beaut Country no. 2', pg. 280-285, Brisbane, 1998, 282.
Hendrik Kolenberg, Twentieth century Australian watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1989. cat.no. 60
Hendrik Kolenberg, Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s, Sydney, 1995, 88-89 (colour illus.), 123. cat.no. 79
Barry Pearce and Haruo Arikawa, Two hundred years of Australian painting: nature, people and art in the southern continent, Tokyo, 1992, 154 (colour illus.). cat.no. 97
Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 9, 18, (illus.). plate no. 17