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Tribute to Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley (Australia 1923–2011) was one of the most, if not the most, unforgettable people I have ever met. What a privilege to have been for so many years her friend and confidant. I have never met anybody so rarely passionate, committed and yet always retaining a wry sense of the absurd that life inevitably presents to us. And for good, even better, measure, she was probably that most politically incorrect person I knew. Margaret Olley brought a new dimension to the word individual.

She was a painter – there was absolutely no other career for her – her works hang here in the Gallery and we have installed a special display of her work. Dobell’s portrait of Margaret Olley is deeply enshrined in the history of Australian art just as the sitter herself is. In the grand tradition of the still life, from Vermeer to Morandi – two of her favourites – as a painter Margaret found a wealth of beauty, humanity and inspiration in the most humble and prosaic of things – bowls of fruit, flowers and interiors. We often talked about colour and what was her favourite colour – her answer was swift and straightforward 'green’ she would say 'it’s the colour of re-birth’.

Edmund Capon
Director and Chief Curator, Art Gallery of NSW

A state memorial service for Margaret Olley will be held at the Gallery on Wednesday 24 August 2011, 11am–12pm. There will be limited seating for the public and, if required, the speeches and music will also be broadcast at the front of the Gallery. The memorial service will also be broadcast live on ABC TV and Sky News.

Dobell's portrait of Margret Olley

Willian Dobell, Margaret Olley, 1948 Archibald winner © Courtesy Sir William Dobell Art Foundation

28 Jul – 21 Aug 2011

Free admission