John Olsen, Who Brought Changes to Australian Art, Dies at 95

John Olsen, the artist who helped shepherd the post-war Australian contemporary art movement and whose exuberant, vivid and abstract portrayals of the Australian landscape redefined how the country views the natural environment, will be released on April 14th. Died at home in Bowral, South Wales. He was 95 years old.

His death was announced in a statement by his children Tim Olsen and Louise Olsen, who is also his father’s gallerist.

A landscape painter who rebelled against cultural establishments at an early age, Mr Olsen was one of the first generation of artists to define contemporary Australian art. As the last surviving member of that generation, he was often called the country’s greatest living painter.

“Olsen is literally the last of a great generation of Australian artists to build modern painting from scratch. is,” said Andrew Frost Guardian I wrote in 2016.

His work is known for its vibrant explosions of color, fluid, coiled lines, and aerial perspective, and is sometimes compared to Australian Aboriginal art. They challenged the prevailing tradition of landscape painting, which saw Australia’s vast desert heartland as lifeless and empty.

“For some reason we have an empty abundance known as dead minds,” said Olsen. Said In 2016, at the opening of a major retrospective of his 60-year career. “It’s a lie. It’s not true. It’s full of life. And this kind of thing is exciting. To be an Australian artist is to be an explorer.”

John Henry Olsen was born on January 21, 1928 in the industrial city of Newcastle, New South Wales, the eldest of two children. His father, Henry, was a clothes buyer. His mother, Esma (McCabin) Olsen, was a tailor.

He grew up in a family with little exposure to books and art during the Great Depression. But from an early age, he loved painting on any surface he could find, including the pages of his mother’s cookbook.

Wanting to escape the drudgery of a sales job, he enrolled in an art class at age 19. Freelance cartoonist and clerk.

As a student, he joined a movement against the staunch mainstream traditions of figurative painting. In 1953, he was the spokesman for a protest of about 30 youths against the Archibald Prize, Australia’s most prestigious portrait award, after seven years in a row the same artist was awarded the prize, after its stifling maintenance. complained about ideology.

In 1956 he took part in a group exhibition called “Direction 1”. Author Darlene Bungie, in her biography John Olsen: An Artist’s Life (2014), called it “a critical and commercial failure, with sluggish response and zero sales.” However, the exhibition was later credited with bringing Abstract Expressionism to Australia.

Mr. Olsen’s early work caught the attention of wealthy businessman Robert Shaw, who paid him to go to Europe for three years. was revealed to be “about emotions, feelings, and experiences” rather than simply depicting scenes. This is where Olsen learned and later taught, he said in an interview.

He brought this spirit to Australia in 1960, painting a series of delightfully extravagant landscapes called ‘You Beaut Country’ that catapulted him to mainstream fame. The series “exploded the typical view of the landscape as a serene ensemble of sheep and rubber trees,” said John Macdonald of The Sydney Morning Herald. I have written 2007.

His most famous work was the 1973 mural Salute to Five Bells commissioned for the Sydney Opera House. A 68-foot-long piece of sketches of landmarks, sea creatures and symbols floating in a blue and purple sea, it was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during their tour of Australia. When Mr Olsen explained to the royal couple that the piece was “about Sydney his harbour” Prince Philip asked “Where’s Luna his park?”, referring to the Harborside amusement park .

The work received mixed reactions from Australians as well. Some thought it was too understated and too sparse in detail. However, over time it became one of his most acclaimed works.

Mr. Olsen continued to paint Australian interiors in his later years, regularly driving and flying across Australia in search of inspiration. But he also turned his gaze inward with his more somber and introspective works. In 2005, he won the Archibald Prize, an award he protested in his youth. The work was a painting “Self-portrait with the face of Janus”, which Mr. MacDonald of The Morning Herald called “a moving and complex picture with a cold eye on age.” and death. “

Mr. Olsen’s artistic success was tempered by a tumultuous personal life. He was married four times to Mary Flower, Valerie Strong, Noela Yoos and Katherine Howard. The first three marriages ended in divorce. Howard passed away in 2016. He had one child, Jane, with Ms. Flower, who died in 2009, and his two children, Tim and Louise, with Ms. Strong. In addition to them, he has his four grandchildren.

Mr. Olsen passed away just seven weeks before his work was projected onto the sail-like roof of the Sydney Opera House in celebration of his career. His children said he looked forward to the exhibition.

According to their statement, “Before bedtime, you can watch Opera House Sailing works in a private light show in a beautiful hotel room with your family and drift quietly forever,” he said. Told them. “What better way to say goodbye?”

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