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Australian art

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Dylan's country



John Olsen

Australia, England, Spain, Portugal

21 Jan 1928 -


Inspired by the Welsh writer Dylan Thomas, Olsen embarked on a series of works in 1957, from his studio in Ibiza, Spain, which strongly related to Thomas' play 'Under Milk Wood'. Olsen saw the possibility of creating a total impression of place through suggestion and an evocation of mood and atmosphere, which would allow for an imaginative response by the viewer.

In an introduction to his 1958 exhibition held at Macquarie Galleries in Sydney, he wrote:
"... the landscapes which have fascinated me more recently ... belong to my 'Seaport' series and I feel in paintings like 'Dylan's country' that one gets a feeling of landscape as a totality as opposed to the Renaissance ideal 'here I stand; where I look is landscape'. This is too visual, and its basic flaw is that it does not inhabit the landscape. Questions come to my mind; What is it like to get a totality of the Riverina, the Dead Heart and other parts of our wonderful landscape - to travel through, to feel the rise and fall of hill and plain, to circumvent, to come back where I have been before: I cannot help thinking of Klee's lead when he said: 'The line goes for a holiday'."

The idea of taking the line on an imaginary journey through a landscape, of experiencing nature and observing it at once from high above and microscopically, have remained vital elements of Olsen's work.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Place where the work was made




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


92.0 x 72.5 cm stretcher; 112.2 x 93.0 x 6.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1958


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Olsen

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchases and Acquisitions for 1958 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1958, 13. 22

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, 280, 282 (colour illus.), 283.

Deborah Hart, John Olsen, 'Early travels abroad', pg. 32-47, Sydney, 1991, 38, 39 (colour illus.). 16

Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 7, 17, (illus.). plate no. 11

Kathie Sutherland, Brett Whiteley: A sensual lilne 1957-67, Victoria, 2010, 30.

Author Unknown, Maitland Local Centenary Art Exhibition: Paintings by artists from the Hunter Valley Region (1963), Maitland, 1963. 15; Lent by the Art Gallery of N.S.W.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Bulletin, Sydney, 13 Aug 1958.