Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2012


(1923 - 2011)

oil on composition board

90.5 x 122.0 cm

signed lower right: Olley

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $60,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 26 - 29 August 2012, Melbourne

Greenhill Galleries, Perth
Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth (label attached verso)


Margaret Olley, Greenhill Galleries, Perth, 1–23 October 1985


France, C., Margaret Olley, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1990, p. 127, pl. 33 (illus.)

Catalogue text

In Margaret Olley's masterful still life Chinese Screen and Yellow Room 1996 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) it is as though the artist has taken a wide angle lens to her earlier version of the subject, Spanish Bottles and Chinese Screen painted around 1985. The same sprig of native wildflowers arranged in a green majolica gourd shape vase appears in each painting along with the magnificent oriental screen, although painted over ten years apart. In the Wesfarmers Olley we are drawn in closely to examine the richly carved and ebonised gilt Chinese screen and the love story that unfolds before our eyes and the lavishly glazed surfaces of the green majolica ware in the foreground. In both works there is a poised but seemingly accidental arrangement of the rusticated continental porcelain so popular in the nineteenth century and lovingly collected by Olley and abundantly displayed throughout her house. As her friend and follower Edmund Capon commented, 'Still-lifes and interiors are her métier, and Margaret Olley is a part of that tradition, from Vermeer in the seventeenth century to Morandi in the twentieth century - two of her most admired artists - which finds inspiration, beauty and a rich spirit of humanity in the most familiar of subject matter.'1 Spanish Bottles and Chinese Screen harks back to the French tradition of nature morte and probably references Vincent Van Gogh's Still Life: Majolica Jar with Wildflowers, 1888 (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia), of which most certainly Olley would have known given her prodigious appetite for French art and her constant travels to museums and galleries throughout the world. In fact Spanish Bottles and Chinese Screen was painted shortly after several recovery trips to London, Majorca, Spain and Paris following the death of her close friend Sam Hughes and her mother. Olley also visited the United States in 1984 after touring the Bonnard Retrospective in Paris and it is possible she visited the Barnes Foundation and saw Van Gogh's famous Majolica Jar with wildflowers. The Wesfarmers Olley is replete with Majolica ware, in particular the Wedgewood 'greenware' including an Etruscan jug decorated with the Coquille St Jacques, as yet another reference to her beloved France.

1. Capon, E., as quoted in Pearce, B., Margaret Olley, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1996, p. 7.b