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Australian art

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Australian flux



John Olsen

Australia, England, Spain, Portugal

21 Jan 1928 -


"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


Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

charcoal, watercolour, gouache on ivory wove paper


68.2 x 94.2 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

Accession number


Artist information

John Olsen

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 9 publications


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.).

Jean Campbell, Australian watercolour painters 1780-1980, Adelaide, 1983, 197 (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.). 34

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.

Deborah Hart, John Olsen, Sydney, 1991, 56 (illus.). 12

Hendrik Kolenberg, Twentieth century Australian watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1989. 60

Hendrik Kolenberg, Australian watercolours 1880s to 1990s, Sydney, 1995, 88-89 (colour illus.), 123. 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.). 97

Virginia Spate, John Olsen, 'John Olsen', pg. 1-14, Melbourne, 1963, 9, 18, (illus.). plate no. 17