John Olsen

John Olsen

An Artist's Life

Book - 2014
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This landmark biography from Darleen Bungey, the author of the acclaimed Arthur Boyd biography, explores what drove John Olsen to become one of the country's greatest painters. This landmark biography by Darleen Bungey, the author of the celebrated biography of Arthur Boyd, graphically depicts the forces that drove John Olsen to become 'one of Australia's greatest living artists'. An exhilarating book, both trenchant and tender, it unflinchingly reveals the man in full. Darleen Bungey strips away the veneer of showmanship and fame to show the substance of a painter driven by his art above all, and a need to depict his country's landscape as Australians had never seen it before. Drawing on extensive interviews with both Olsen and those who have known him best, she explores his passionate private life, his friendships and rivalries with other artists, and his love-hate relationship with the Australian art scene. How did a shy, stuttering boy from Newcastle, tormented by his unloving, alcoholic father, come to paint the great mural Salute to Five Bells at the Sydney Opera House? This biography follows that journey through his early experiences in the bush, particularly a formative period at Yass (a time previously unrecorded) to years of cleaning jobs to pay his way through art school, then constant travelling and relocations - not only in Australia but also the UK, France and Spain - and finally the epic journeys into the outback and to Lake Eyre. From a child who was never taken to an art gallery, who learnt how to draw from comics, we come to see the famous artist in the black beret, the writer and poet, the engaging public speaker, the bon vivant - whose life has been defined by the desperate need to paint.
Publisher: Sydney, N.S.W., ABC Books / HarperCollins Publishers,, 2014.
ISBN: 9780733331138
Characteristics: 516 pages, 48 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm.


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