Important Australian + International Fine Art
2 May 2012


born 1928

watercolour and pastel on paper

52.0 x 96.0 cm

signed and inscribed lower left: Sea world John / Olsen

$45,000 - 60,000
Sold for $54,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 25 - 2 May 2012, Sydney

Tim Olsen Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney
Sotheby's, Sydney, 28 August 2006, lot 16
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Olsen has long held the view that as we inhabit the environment, it in turn inhabits us, becomes at one with our physicality and our spiritual selves. It is this interconnection of the self with something bigger than the self that invests his work with its enduring strength. Although often referred to as a 'landscape painter', Olsen transcends neat classifications. His art is about a geography of place, and a geography of mind, imagination and experience. In 1998 he noted: 'People think that my painting is only a representation of nature when in fact it is a transformation and nature is the dictionary.' This is an important insight because Olsen's gift is not simply to represent what he sees but to abstract from it; to extract the essence. Nevertheless, the 'dictionary' itself is of vital significance. In general, John Olsen's most sustaining works are those allied with specific subject matter, whether drawn from the landscape or coalescing around a particular poetic idea. In the 1990s his recurring themes have included the enveloping harbour, haiku moments, an old boot, the vessel of a bath, kitchen stories, the life of a lily pond, a gypsy caravan, journeys into the country. This is the artist's natural milieu: to discover the catalysts for emotive transformations; for the expanding ripples flowing from the conscious and unconscious mind.

Quoted from Hart, D., John Olsen, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2000, pp. 241-242