Important Australian + International Fine Art
4 May 2016


born 1928

watercolour and pastel on paper

95.0 x 100.0 cm

signed and inscribed lower left: Kitchen Influenced by Flowers / John Olsen

$40,000 – 60,000
Sold for $48,800 (inc. BP) in Auction 42 - 4 May 2016, Melbourne

Private collection, Melbourne
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 9 April 1997, lot 174
Christie’s, Melbourne, 26 August 1997, lot 18A
Gene and Brian Sherman collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

John Olsen is the celebrated bon vivant of Australian art. His love of fine food and wine colours his reputation and has informed his work for decades. A fascinating aspect of Olsen’s work is that he extends his love of the kitchen into his studio. In short, Olsen paints in a similar way to how he might cook. Food writer Andy Harris writing in an introduction to Olsen’s 2010 exhibition, The Culinaria, Cuisine of the Sun, at the Tim Olsen Gallery, describes having breakfast with John Olsen:

‘... we had the perfect early morning breakfast perched on the stools of the tiny El Quim bar, eating their famed chipirones (baby squid) with fried eggs, cutting them into a rough dice to produce a gloriously artistic mess of egg white and runny yolk mixed with intense smears of black squid ink, emerald green olive oil and sprinkled paprika. Accompanied by perfectly thin olive oil fried chips and cold Quilmes beer, his eyes sparkled as he began to draw in his notebook.’1

Kitchen Influenced by Flowers tells the story of a simple lunch but takes on an inspired urgency as we see every aspect of the activity at once. It is as though the entire event occurred simultaneously. The application of the watercolour in particular takes on the feel of cooking stains as they spill their way around the surface as Olsen’s playful repertoire of mark making adds to the jovial richness of the work.

The picture presents the kitchen as the engine room of family life. Typical of Olsen, this work is abundant with anecdotes about the event; the family cat scrounges for scraps, a mouse scarpers, the table is scattered with the ingredients of the meal and a warm egg yolk yellow light floods the scene. It has all the elements of a well told story, the details unravel across the surface to complete the yarn in a manner which is unmistakably Olsen.

1. Harris, A., Culinaria: The Cuisine of The Sun, Tim Olsen Gallery, Sydney, 2010, p. 7