The late Australian art icon Margaret Olley inspired this year’s Archibald Prize winner.
The late Australian art icon Margaret Olley inspired this year’s Archibald Prize winner.

Life of Margaret Olley celebrated

LISMORE-born artist Margaret Olley has been remembered as a special talent who was unmistakably Australian.

About 500 people, including Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, attended the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney for Olley’s state memorial service yesterday.

Olley died at her home in Paddington, Sydney, on July 26, aged 88.

“Her longevity as an artist of more than 70 years was incredible. She was painting right up until the day before she died,” said Ms Dowell, who travelled to the service to represent Olley’s home town.

She said after the service she spoke to Olley’s niece and the Governor General Quentin Bryce, both of whom spoke of the artist’s attachment to the place of her birth and the Lismore Regional Gallery.

During the service, Premier Barry O’Farrell said: “Margaret Olley was unmistakably Australian ... in her generosity of spirit and her gift for friendship.

“It was reflected in her mischievous sense of humour. She was part of the awakening of the nation.”

Art Gallery of NSW director Edmund Capon paid tribute to Olley’s artistic talents but said her personal qualities were just as special.

“She was a straightforward person,” he said.

“She looked life right in the eye and said exactly what she thought.”

Governor-General Bryce said Olley’s paintings were beautiful.

“But it is the woman who painted them, her enduring qualities and assuredness, that make us smile,” she said.

Olley had more than 90 solo exhibitions during her lifetime and was one of Australia’s best-known painters.

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