Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 April 2008

John Olsen

born 1928

watercolour and mixed media on paper

99.5 x 92.0 cm

signed dated and inscribed with title lower left: Wattles and Rainbow / John Olsen / 96

$55,000 - 75,000
Sold for $66,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 4 - 16 April 2008, Melbourne

Wagner Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

'Compared with the large number of impressive oils in the 1960s, Olsen's work in the 1970s became increasingly diversified and his strengths were often most evident in the subtleties of his works on paper'

From the time of the 'Wild Australia' series and into the Lake Eyre period, the consensus of critical opinion was that, whilst the oils in individual exhibitions were inconsistent, Olsen's most original contribution to extending our insights into the natural environment came through the renderings of bird and animal life. These displayed a vitalistic energy and intensity of graphic means, and many of the gouaches and watercolours effectively conveyed a new lyrical sensibility in the interpretation of the landscape. At the time of Olsen's exhibition at Australian Galleries in 1977, Graeme Sturgeon wrote in The Australian:

'When Olsen is true to himself he continues to be an artist of considerable ability, salting away images of the wild, wide reaches of the outback, tawny and desiccated, yet filled with life, which are unique to Australian art and which contribute to the creation of a national self-awareness and sense of identity.'

For Olsen, the Australian landscape and wildlife were more than external phenomena: they provided ways of charting new territories of creative exploration where close observation and first-hand experience became the springboard for ideas and metaphorical connections. He agreed with the concept expressed in Chinese painting that 'the particular outward appearance of things, or indeed their accuracy, was of secondary importance to capturing the essence or spirit of the subject.'1

1. Hart, D., John Olsen, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1991, p. 144