Olley and Hockney, together

Portraits are a link between Margaret Olley and David Hockney, two very different artists being shown at the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre this year.
Olley and Hockney, together

Margaret Olley (1923-2011) Self portrait c.1988, oil on board, 59.5 x 75cm. Private collection, courtesy Philip Bacon Galleries © Margaret Olley Art Trust

‘Because I have a face like a pudding and it’s easy to draw.’

This was Margaret Olley’s humorous response, when asked by friend and biographer Christine France, why, in her opinion, she was such a popular portrait subject for fellow artists.

Olley was the most painted face in Australian art history. As a fledgling artist at the age of 25, she sat for friend and fellow artist William Dobell. His portrait Margaret Olley 1948 won the Archibald Prize, hurtling a shy Olley into a media frenzy. More than six decades later, Olley was again the subject of an Archibald Prize winning portrait by Ben Quilty, Margaret Olley 2011.

Both of these portraits will be on display in Portraits: Margaret Olley, a new exhibition assembled exclusively for the Tweed Regional Gallery. The exhibition includes portraits of Olley by significant Australia artists, many of who were also Olley’s close friends.

‘From William Dobell’s portrait in 1948, through to Ben Quilty’s in 2011 – the year of her death – her career was bookended by those two portraits. The exhibition becomes a painterly timeline of her life,’ said curator Ingrid Hedgcock.

Both Archibald Prize winning portraits were sourced for the exhibition, along with a collection of Olley’s self-portraits from almost every decade of Olley’s career. ‘Someone recently described Olley as “the glue” of the Sydney art scene for many years, she was this great figure with great connections and friendships. You can see that in the show, the special quality that she had,’ said Hedgcock.

See Olley and Hockney up close

Portraits are also a major component in the work of David Hockney, whose massive hall of portraits was recently on display in Melbourne.

But Hockney is much more than a portraitist and the Tweed Regional Gallery is holding a landmark presentation of David Hockney:Words and Pictures, featuring four major suites of artist prints produced by Hockney from 1961–1977.

With the generous financial assistance of the Tweed Regional Gallery Foundation Ltd, this landmark presentation is a first for the Gallery.

The exhibition is drawn from the British Council Collection and produced during the first two decades of Hockney’s career when he established his international reputation as a Pop artist. The prints refer to historical works of literature and art, including A Rake’s Progress, the Brothers Grimm, and the poetry of Wallace Stevens and CP Cavafy.

In conjunction with Words and Pictures the Gallery will also display a small collection of original Hockney works on loan from  the artist’s brother John Hockney, who lives in Australia. They include colourful portraits of the artist’s mother and two self-portraits.

Hockney’s Words and Pictures will premiere at the Tweed Regional Gallery before travelling on to the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba in October 2017. It is a ticketed exhibition – prices start at $7 - and visitors can purchase tickets at the Gallery. The exhibition will run from June 30 until September 17.

Portraits: Margaret Olley is a free exhibition and will be held at the Margaret Olley Art Centre, Tweed Regional Gallery  in Murwillumbah from May 12 until September 10. The exhibition will be complemented by an engaging schedule of activities and events.

David Hockney: Words and Pictures is a British Council touring exhibition, presented with support from the Tweed Regional Gallery Foundation Ltd.

Find more information on the exhibitions here.


Emma Clark Gratton

Thursday 30 March, 2017

About the author

Emma Clark Gratton is an ArtsHub staff writer.