Poppies by Margaret Olley
Poppies by Margaret Olley

Tributes flow for Margaret Olley

AT THE time of her death, the great Australian artist Margaret Olley had been planning to donate a substantial collection of her works to be kept on permanent display in Lismore, according to the director of the Lismore Regional Art Gallery, Brett Adlington.

Margaret Olley died at her Paddington, Sydney, home yesterday. She was 88.

“We have lost not only a great Australian artist, but also a great supporter of a new art gallery for Lismore,” Mr Adlington said yesterday.

Born in Lismore on June 24, 1923, Ms Olley later moved with her family to Queensland, going on to find fame as an artist around the world.

In April this year, she took her turn on the other side of the easel and was painted by Ben Quilty – a portrait which won Quilty the 2011 Archibald Prize.

A spokesman for Brisbane’s Jan Murphy Gallery, which represents Mr Quilty, said yesterday he was “very saddened by the news”.

“Ben was very close to Margaret,” the spokesman said.

“He is unable to make any personal comment at this time.

"He considers her passing as the loss of a legend, the last of a great generation of artists.”

Sitting for Mr Quilty was the second time Ms Olley had been the subject of a winning Archibald portrait.

The first was in 1948 when she was painted by William Dobell.

The last time she spoke to The Northern Star, late last year, Ms Olley was recovering from cancer surgery, but still painting every day.

She said she felt she was “running out of time”.

This was in relation to her unwavering advocacy for the arts.

“Politicians should beware,” she told The Northern Star.

“They ignore the arts at their peril.

"The silent majority of voters are interested in the arts, in many and various forms.”

Mr Adlington said politicians used to dread phone calls from Margaret Olley.

“They knew she would be having a go at them for not giving more funding to the arts.

"She was very disappointed when Lismore didn’t get the funding for a new gallery, which was to be called the Margaret Olley Arts Centre, named in her honour.

“It’s very sad she won’t live to see that gallery,” he said.

Page MP Janelle Saffin said she was saddened to hear of Olley’s passing, but vowed to pursue a cultural facility named in her honour.

“In conjunction with the Lismore Regional Art Gallery and Lismore City Council, we will continue to work hard to realise the dream of a state of the art cultural facility in Lismore in honour of Margaret,” she said.

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