Lismore & Nimbin

Legendary People

Margaret Ollie – Artist

Margaret Hannah Olley AC was a legendary Australian painter and the subject of more than 90 solo exhibitions. Margaret was born in Lismore and attended Somerville House in Brisbane during her high school years. Her work concentrated on still life and in 1997 a major retrospective of her work was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She received the inaugural Mosman Art Prize in 1947.

Olley was twice the subject of an Archibald Prize winning painting; the first by William Dobell in 1948 and the other by Ben Quilty in 2011. She was also the subject of paintings by many of her artist friends, including Russell Drysdale.

In June 1991, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, Olley was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service as an artist and to the promotion of art. In June 2006, she was awarded Australia’s highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order, for service as one of Australia’s most distinguished artists, for support and philanthropy to the visual and performing arts, and for encouragement of young and emerging artists.  In the same year, Olley was also awarded the degree Doctor of Fine Arts honoris causa by the University of Newcastle.

Margaret donated more works to the Art Gallery of New South Wales of more than 130 works worth $7 million.

Margaret died at her home in Paddington in July 2011, aged 88 and she never married and had children.

Part of Margaret’s Paddington house, well known for its items that Margaret collected and used as subject matter for her art, described as “her lifelong installation”, is being recreated at the Tweed River Art Gallery, not far from where she was born. The architect of the Tweed’s new Margaret Olley Centre, Bud Brannigan, said that it would be faithful to Olley’s house, “in all of its glory”.