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Five bells



John Olsen

Australia, England, Spain, Portugal

21 Jan 1928 – 11 Apr 2023

Artist profile

Alternate image of Five bells by John Olsen
Alternate image of Five bells by John Olsen
Alternate image of Five bells by John Olsen
  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on hardboard
    264.5 x 274.0 cm board
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.r.corner, black oil paint "John Olsen '63".

    Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1999
    Naala Nura, ground level, 20th-century galleries
    Accession number
    © Estate of John Olsen/Copyright Agency

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    John Olsen

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'Five bells was my first commission to paint in situ to cover a wall … I didn’t hesitate. I brushed a line around the core theme, the seed-burst, the life-burst, the sea-harbour, the source of life. Inside and around this core, I painted images drawn from metaphors and similes in [Kenneth] Slessor’s poem of our harbour city, and from my own emotional and physical involvement with the harbour, and with my young family in Watsons Bay …

    'I wanted to show the Harbour as a movement, a sea suck, and the sound of the water as though I am part of the sea ... The painting says directly what I wanted to say: "I am in the sea-harbour, and the sea-harbour is in me".'
    - John Olsen, 1999

    John Olsen is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, with a career spanning more than seven decades. Primarily a painter, he has also worked in ceramics, tapestry and printmaking. His energetic and distinctive style is defined by experimentation with line, colour and figuration. The landscape has been the overarching theme of his work, with forays into the urban environment, food and portraiture.

  • Audio

    Five bells - John Olsen 2:36

    Five bells - John Olsen 1:31

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 30 publications

Other works by John Olsen

See all 134 works