Olsen gifts five new drawings and a sculpture to Newcastle Art Gallery

20 Jul 2017

There is no doubt that Newcastle and the Hunter region are near and dear to the heart of Australian master painter John Olsen OBE, AO.

The distinguished artist, who was born in Newcastle and considers himself a Novocastrian, has once again shown that love for his home city with a gift of several new works of art as companion pieces to his painting acquired by the Newcastle Art Gallery last year, King Sun and the Hunter 2016.

Olsen gave the Gallery five new drawings, including four of Newcastle Harbour, titled Harbour 1 through Harbour 4, with the fifth drawing titled Octopus.

When he celebrated his 89th birthday at a Gallery gathering in January, Olsen told the attendees that he would be back in Newcastle this year to create more new works of art. He has been in Newcastle drawing all this week, taking inspiration from the city's beautiful natural environment as well as the industrial landscape of its working harbour and Kooragang Island.

"I've come back here and been working frantically in this magical setting," he said. "The harbour side is just fabulous. I've been working from my window over the harbour every morning. The passing of these enormous coal ships is incredible and the landscape is a kaleidoscope of energy, constantly changing. It really captures the vitality of this community."

Olsen said he is drawn to the changes taking place in Newcastle and its transformation in recent years to a vibrant, liveable city. He feels an optimism here that he said fits well with his approach as an artist.

"I do put more emphasis on feeling in my art than I do on detail," he said. "My vision is optimistic, and there's far too much pessimism in the world. If I feel something passionately and I put that into my art, that feeling is then passed along to the viewer and it creates an emotional connection."

In addition to the five new drawings, Olsen gave the Gallery a sculpture titled Bronze frog, donated from his personal collection. The bronze casting of one of his signature tree frogs leaping out of the water will be the first Olsen bronze sculpture in the Gallery's collection.

The drawings and the sculpture will become part of the Gallery's permanent collection, joining 37 other Olsen works spanning from the 1950s to the early 1990s and then 2016, when King Sun and the Hunter was painted and acquired.

Newcastle City Council Interim CEO Jeremy Bath, who received the works of art on behalf of Council and the Gallery, said Olsen's gifts are meaningful for our city and the region.

"John Olsen is a giant among Australian artists," he said, "and he is also a proud Novocastrian. With the optimistic vision that he has for this city, it’s wonderful to see Newcastle through his eyes with such great bursts of colour and energy."

"This community has a very strong, positive emotional response to John's work," he said. "Over 28,000 people came to the Gallery's summer exhibition JOHN OLSEN: The City's Son. That was a huge response. People really feel that positive energy and enthusiasm that John has for Newcastle."

"Newcastle Art Gallery is proud to have an extensive Olsen collection, so much so that the iconic Sea sun of 5 bells 1964 painting is remaining on permanent display in the Gallery's ceiling for visitors to view and appreciate."