Margaret Olley was born in Lismore, NSW and died at her home in July 2011, aged 88. She never married and had no children. She attended Sommerville House in Brisbane during her high school years and was so focused on art that she dropped one French class in order to take another art lesson.
Her work concentrated on still live and in 1997 a major retrospective of her work was organised by the AGNSW. She received the inaugural Mosman Art Prize in 1947. She is represented in all State and Regional Galleries and in both public and private collections.
Olley was twice the subject of an Archibald Prize winning painting; the first by William Dobell in 1948 and the other by Ben Quilty in 2011. She was also the subject of paintings by many of her artist friends, including Russell Drysdale.
On 10 June 1991, Olley was made a member of the Order of Australian ‘for service as an artist and to the promotion of art’. On 12 June 2006, she was awarded Australia’s highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order, ‘for service as one of Australia’s most distinguished artists, for support and philanthropy to the visual and performing arts, and for encouragement of young and emerging artists’.
Part of Olley’s Paddington house, well known for its items that the painter collected and used as subject matter for her art, described as “her lifelong installation”, is to be recreated at the Tweed River Art Gallery, an area not far from where the artist was born.
Gift of the artist in 2001.