Statement on the death of John Olsen AO OBE
I was saddened to hear of the passing of acclaimed Australian painter and artist, John Olsen AO OBE, on Tuesday at the age of 95.
We remember John for his extraordinary career, and for his immense contribution to Australian art over 6 decades.
I consider John as a pioneer, a master of his craft who depicted the experience of the Australian 'landscape' in a new and contemplative way. Through his abstract style he helped audiences connect with nature and his masterful ability to transport the public into the vastness of our landscape, underpinned his achievements, and his popularity here and overseas.
Born in Newcastle in 1928, John’s career spanned more than 60 years, with his work exhibited in galleries across Australia and overseas, and he was a winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes.
An elder statesman of Australian Art, John’s unique talent was recognised through many awards and honours. This included the prestigious Order of the British Empire in 1977 for services to art, the Order of Australia, the Centenary Medal in 2001 and honorary doctorate of letters from both the University of NSW (2003) and the University of Newcastle (2011).
I would like to acknowledge John’s significant contribution to the arts as a teacher and mentor. A prodigious work ethic meant he painted until his tenth decade, his energy and creativity undimmed by age.
We have lost a legendary creative Australian, and I send my condolences to his family and friends during this very difficult time. A tribute to John’s long career will be beamed onto the building’s sails next month during the Vivid Sydney festival.
Minister for the Arts