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Margaret Olley (1923 - )

Much loved and highly regarded, Margaret Olley is one of Australia's most respected still-life interior painters. She became a distinguished member of the Australian art world for the way she used her art to glorify simple, everyday objects and her acts of philanthropy to the visual and performing arts in which she has been an active supporter of young and emerging artists.

Born in Lismore, New South Wales in 1923, Olley received an extensive education in the arts studying at the Easy Sydney Technical School in 1945, La Grande Chaumiere, Paris in 1950 as well as other travel studies in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Olley first came to public attention in 1948 when her portrait was painted by William Dobell and won the prestigious Archibald Prize. Consequently, she held her first solo exhibition that same year in which her works were purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria. Following the success of her first exhibition, Olley came to hold at least one exhibition every year in what has come to total over 60 exhibitions.

Margaret Olley quickly became known within the Australian art scene for her vivid depictions of such humble subjects as vases of flowers, bowls of fruit and furniture from around her home. Strongly rejecting the keys trends of the modern art movement, Olley used her unique sensibility for colour and light and her keen eye for detail and pictorial harmony to transform ordinary objects into those of beauty and elegance.

In 1997 the Art Gallery of New South Wales organised a major retrospective of Olley's work and in June 2006, in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, the artist was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for her commitment to art and philanthropy. She also published her own biography, Margaret Olley: Far from a Still Life in which she revealed her marriage proposal to the gay artist Donald Friend and spoke openly about her battles with alcoholism and depression.

Today she is represented by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra as well as in all major state galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart; many regional and university galleries; and numerous national and international private and corporate collections.

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