Author(s): Meg Stewart
With new chapters taking in the last few years of Margaret Olley's life, her state funeral and the enormous legacy she has left behind. 'A great painter, a great woman, a great story' Barry Humphries Margaret Olley is arguably Australia's most loved artist. She was also one of the country's most generous benefactors to public art galleries. This intimate biography begins in the 1920s in the green, tropical wet of Tully, North Queensland, where Margaret's early childhood was spent on a cane farm and dairy. The story unfolds to tell of her life-long love affair with painting. At boarding school at Somerville House, Brisbane, Margaret found a mentor in art teacher Caroline Barker, and she went on to blossom as an art student at East Sydney Technical College. The book includes intriguing revelations about her friendships with well-known figures such as Donald Friend, William Dobell and Russell Drysdale, and the success of her first one-person show in Sydney at the age of twenty-five. Bohemian adventures in Europe with fellow Australian artists, including David Strachan, were to follow. She travelled - sketchbook in hand - around England, France, Italy and Spain; met Alice B. Toklas in Paris; and lived on a vineyard at Cassis in the South of France. Her story continued back in Australia where in the late 1950s in Brisbane Margaret struggled with alcoholism and was eventually forced to face up to drying out or drying up creatively. Once she'd given up her comforting nips, her return to life and painting was joyous. Far From A Still Life details her bout of personal darkness - her 'black hole' when not only did she want to give up painting but also living - and the freedom of a walking frame. Margaret got through those difficult times and continued with her preoccupations of producing art; providing more donations to our galleries; and entertaining the odd celebrity, like Barry Humphries or Maggie Smith, in her notoriously cluttered Paddington terrace. With new material detailing her final travels around regional galleries donating her work and buying that of others and her feverish work painting right up until the day of her death, this is a rich and comprehensive look at eighty-odd years of Margaret Olley, her lovers and friends, and, of course, her painting.
Meg Stewart, filmmaker, journalist, and author, is the daughter of artist Margaret Coen and poet Douglas Stewart. Her writing includes a biography of Margaret Coen, Autobiography of My Mother, and the art book Margaret Coen: A Passion for Painting. She has published two novels, Modern Men Don't Shift Fridges and her most recent, The Dream Life of Harry Moon. The first edition of Margaret Olley: Far From a Still Life was much lauded and became a bestseller.