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Dry Salvages



John Olsen

Australia, England, Spain, Portugal

21 Jan 1928 – 11 Apr 2023

Artist profile

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on hardboard
    119.0 x 90.9 cm board; 133.2 x 105.0 x 2.8 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated u.r. corner, black oil "John/ Olsen/ 56".

    Gift of Mrs EM Gardiner in memory of her daughter Marie Gardiner 1972
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of John Olsen/Copyright Agency

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    John Olsen

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    My painting takes on its particular abstract quality because only in this way can I express my search for direct mystical experience. There is the feeling of an abyss, a void between oneself and everything outside, and one has the impulse to bridge it. The thing which I always endeavour to express is an animistic quality – a certain mystical throbbing throughout nature.

    John Olsen, 1956

    Taking its name from the title of a poem by TS Eliot, 'Dry salvages' explores the idea of being immersed in the natural world – an idea which was essential to John Olsen’s approach to painting. The painting was shown in the benchmark exhibition 'Direction I', held at Macquarie Galleries in Sydney in December 1956.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 10 publications

    • George Berger, Meanjin, 'Notes on Sydney's art life-1956', pg. 74-76, Carlton, Autumn 1957, 74, 75. exhibition review

    • Sarah Couper, Look, 'Backstage: Deborah Edwards, Senior curator Australian art', pg. 11, Sydney, Nov 2015, 11 (colour illus.). Deborah Edwards photographed standing in front of Olsen's 'Dry Salvages’

    • James Gleeson., The Sun, 'Color, life in art', Sydney, 04 Dec 1956. exhibition review

    • Deborah Hart, John Olsen, 'The Pacific loan exhibition and direction one', pg. 25-31, Sydney, 1991, 29, 30 (colour illus.). cat.no. 13

    • David Hurlston and Deborah Edwards (Editors), John Olsen: the You Beaut Country, Melbourne, 2016, 55 (colour illus.).

    • Macquarie Galleries, Direction 1, Sydney, 1956, n.pag.. cat.no. 3; priced 100 guineas

    • Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 242 (colour illus.), 301.

    • Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 30.

    • Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 6-7, 17, (colour illus.). colour plate no. 1

    • Project 41 - the mosaic, the grid, Sydney, 1983, 4 (illus.). cat.no. 6

Other works by John Olsen

See all 133 works