Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

John Olsen

born 1928

watercolour and pastel on paper

98.5 x 95.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed lower left: ‘Wet Season’ / John / Olsen / 94

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $93,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Savill Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 26 November 2003, lot 8
Private company collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

In the 1960s when John Olsen painted the 'You Beaut Country' series he created a new concept of the Australian scene ranging from the siren city of Sydney over aerial views of Lake Eyre to the golden summers at Clarendon in South Australia. Pulsating with life, these aerial views capture the bustle and the season, the dryness and the heat. In Wet Season 1994 Olsen again displays his extraordinary talent for creating atmosphere - in this instance of dampness and humidity as the heavy clouds liberate their loads of tropical abundance. Watercolour is the ideal medium, its fluidity matching all aspects of the moment. The thunderclouds feel fat with plenitude, echoing reflections in the transparent waters below. The upper and lower parts of the composition are further united by the runs of blue and green paint down the picture plane, of recalled memories of water running down the window pane on a wet day. The picture not only looks wet; it also feels wet, sensations enticed by Olsen's rapid and adroit execution. Dark areas of wash release a flowing calligraphy, some ending in drops of fruitfulness, repeated in the big, round eyes of Olsen's inimitable frogs, playful and lively with pleasure. The joyous abandon with which they sport in the water is effectively communicated to the viewer through such animation. Yet deft lines of pastel are introduced to provide some more stable touches around which the washes of paint abound in a deluge of happiness.

The demand for Olsen's paintings, prints and sculptures of frogs has been understandably strong for, as his biographer Deborah Hart has rightly observed, 'there are few artists who have captured the essential energy of these harbingers of life so effectively,' adding, '...He has continued to be fascinated by these agile creatures and the fertile worlds they inhabit.'1 This same playful animation dressed in blues, greens and frogs infects a related painting, the 1995 oil Queensland House and Lily Pond in the collection of Reg Livermore. Another watercolour and pastel, A Little Frog Riding on a Leaf, Trembling 1995 (private collection), is further related to Wet Season through its witty touch and nimble line. Hart includes them among 'his enchanting works on this subject of the mid-1990s...'2 All three works admirably illustrate another aspect of Olsen's formidable talent - his engaging ability to communicate joie de vivre.

1. Hart, D., John Olsen, Craftsman House, Sydney 1991, p. 222
2. Ibid.