The late Australian art icon Margaret Olley inspired this year’s Archibald Prize winner.
The late Australian art icon Margaret Olley inspired this year’s Archibald Prize winner.

DAY IN HISTORY: Aussie painter Margaret Olley dies

AUSTRALIA lost one of its finest artists when painter Margaret Olley died at her home in Sydney on July 26, 2011. She was 88.

Olley was a prolific artist, who mostly concentrated on still life, throughout her career and was the subject of more than 90 solo exhibitions.

She inspired two Archibald Prize winning paintings spanning near 70 years - the first by William Dobell (1948) and Ben Quilty just before she died in 2011.

Margaret Olley pictured at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery 2006. Photo Gemma-Rose Turnbull / Northern Star
Margaret Olley pictured at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery 2006. Photo Gemma-Rose Turnbull / Northern Star Gemma-Rose Turnbull

Olley, born in the northern NSW's city of Lismore in 1923, quickly found her passion in life when, as a teenager, she attended Somerville House in Brisbane.

The painter moved back to her home state where she enrolled in an Art Diploma course at East Sydney Technical College in 1943.

Olley would eventually graduate with A-class honours.

Olley's quality and passion for her work garnered her the inaugural Mosman Art Prize (1947), an Officer of the Order of Australia (1991) and the Companion of the Order, Australia's highest civilian honour, in 2006.

Wickham Terrace House by Margaret Olley.
Wickham Terrace House by Margaret Olley. Margaret Olley

She donated more than 130 works, worth $7 million, to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2006.

After she died, her house, an iconic museum of her subject matter, was sold for $3 million.

However, many of the items stored in the house have been recreated at the Tweed River Art Gallery. 

Margaret Olley's Hawkesbury wildflowers with lemons 1971 will form part of The Mystery of Things: Margaret Olley and David Strachan, the new exhibition at the Margaret Olley Art Centre.
Margaret Olley's Hawkesbury wildflowers with lemons 1971 will form part of The Mystery of Things: Margaret Olley and David Strachan, the new exhibition at the Margaret Olley Art Centre.

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