Margaret Olley – an inspired life, well-lived – and no air-brushing!


Of all the lessons the dearly-departed and much-admired artist Margaret Olley left us with – the one that stands out for me has less to do about making art and more to do with the art of living. She continues to inspire.

At an exhibition of Alasdair MacIntyre’s gorgeous scultpures of his 12 favourite artists – who’s front and centre?  None other than ‘Oll’, (right).  More on that shortly.

But it’s 88-year-0ld Margaret Olley’s face and the lessons we can learn from her, which had more of a message. In these days of airbrushing and botox – why not age gracefully?

This wonderful piece by SMH columnist Adele Horin reminds us all that it takes courage to live life to the full, to not be ashamed to age, and to not be bothered with the superficial business of trying to hide that fact.  Horin describes Olley’s example as true beauty.

Olley, we know, contributed huge amounts in philanthropy, as a muse, as an arts advocate as a teacher and a mentor.  A plain-speaking country girl more interested in substance than artifice.  More interested in pursuing her passion and getting on with her life, than worrying about what others may think.  Bravo, Margaret.

Adele Horin’s article is a timely reminder to all of us, that there is no substitute for a life well-lived and the lines in a face that prove it.

As Adele points out:  “Margaret Olley’s amazing life and amazing face are a testament to true beauty.  Like Olley, the face tells us that conventional beauty is insignificant in the reckoning of a life.”

It serves as a lesson to so many of us – when all is said and done, is it really so necessary to rush off to the cosmetic therapist at the first sign of a line?  (**It’s topical at the moment, after debate in the UK which led to overly airbrushed ads featuring celebrities, being pulled for being misleading).

As Adele says:  “In the face of the herd, it takes courage and confidence for women of a certain age to refuse to pad out laughter lines, plump up lips, and smooth out wrinkles.” Good work, Adele. Speaking of good work – how about this marvel from Margaret, completed in the days before she left this mortal art studio.  A sweeping triptych of Sydney Harbour, the city with which she fell in love some 60 years before.

All of us will be mesmerised and blessed to see the work, as and when her dealer, Philip Bacon, and friends and executors decided the time is right.

And for anyone who has a passion for art and wants to support those who are following in her path – do what Margaret would have done and go along and see a show – especially this one at Sullivan & Strumpf Fine Art in Zetland.

Alasdair MacIntyre has turned his attention from humorous little sculpture works featuring Kevin Rudd, and even Captain America – (above).

This time he has produced extraordinary ‘models’ of his 12 favourite Australian artists – they are on show until about mid-August at Sullivan & Strumpf. So, there’s Margaret, and with her in the show you can see Whiteley (left), and Jeffrey Smart (right) and Bill Robinson (back, right).  Also featured are Richard Bell, Charles Blackman, Rosalie Gascoigne and Ian Fairweather.   Inspired!!