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Papers of John Olsen, 1971-2015 [manuscript]
Bib ID 2172069
Format ManuscriptManuscript, OnlineOnline
Olsen, John, 1928-
Online Versions
Access Conditions Available for reference. Not for loan. 
Description 1971-1981 
2 folio items. 

1. Volume compiled in 1981 from the original manuscript of "My complete graphics, 1957-1979", published in 1980 by Gryphon Books. The volume contains a record of all etchings, lithographs and silk screens of this period; manuscript extracts from diaries; copies of photographs; memoirs and opinions of George Baldessin, Brett Whiteley, Fred Williams, Rudy Komon, Leonard French, Ian Fairweather and John Molvio; and 24 original drawings by Olsen. 2. Original manuscripts of "Salute to Five bells: John Olsen's opera house journal", 1971-1973, published in 1973 by Angus and Robertson, containing original drawings and a manuscript account of the production of the Sydney Opera House mural.


John Olsen (b.1928), Australian artist who first studied under John Passmore. His early travel and work overseas (1957-1960) resulted in his work being subject to experiences of European art and Mediterranean influences. Thematically his aim was to display Australian culture to a world which would see diversity in its changing seasons. Later extensive travels in Africa, Europe and across Australia steered him towards an environmental and ecological focus, evident in You Beaut Country (1961). He rejected the title 'abstract artist', preferring to describe his work as "an exploration of the totality of landscape". He received a commission from the Dobell Foundation in 1970 to paint the Sydney Opera House mural Salute to Five Bells. Completed in 1973, the mural was inspired by the poem 'Five Bells' by Kenneth Slessor. Olsen's works are held widely in private and public collections, and have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions both in Australia and abroad. His influence on the development of art in Australia has been enhanced by his numerous art awards, including the Archibald prize (self portrait, Janus, 2005), an O.B.E and O.A. His autobiography, Drawn from Life, was published in 1997.


Manuscript reference no. : NLA MS 8015.

Selected item(s) also available online

Related Material Related materials: interviews with John Olsen are held by the National Library in the Oral History Section at ORAL DeB 14 and 174 and at ORAL TRC 3246. 
Subjects Olsen, John, 1928- -- Archives.  |  Artists -- Australia -- Archives.
Time Coverage 1971-1981 
Occupation Artists.
Other authors/contributors Slessor, Kenneth, 1901-1971. Five bells  |  Olsen, John, 1928- My complete graphics, 1957-1979  |  Olsen, John, 1928- Salute to Five bells
Exhibited Exhibited: Treasures Gallery, National Library of Australia, 16a April, 2016 

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Members of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori communities are advised that this catalogue contains names and images of deceased people. All users of the catalogue should also be aware that certain words, terms or descriptions may be culturally sensitive and may be considered inappropriate today, but may have reflected the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written.