Margaret Olley channeling Cezanne in Still Life

Margaret Olley: Self portrait with everlastings II; 1974 (1)

Back a few days ago I showcased a few of the wonderful still life paintings created by Paul Cezanne who pushed the boundaries of still life into new realms. Here in Australia one of our favourite and most loved artists was also an expert in the still life genre and modelled her style on the European modern masters - channeling Cezanne and others in a most vibrant way. The artist was the wonderful Margaret Olley (1923-2011).

Margaret Olley: Apples, 1980 oil on hardboard,64.5 x 77.0 cm board; 81.3 x 95.5 x 4.3 cm frame (2)

In 2021 during Covid Lockdown in Australia the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, a regional art gallery in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia, produced a series of Gallery At Home Still Life Challenges - inspired by the paintings of Margaret Olley.

The challenges were titled: Unlocking Margaret's House Still Life Challenge and each challenge focused on one painting. Today we take a look at the first still life challenge for the exhibition At Home: Margaret Olley & Ben Quilty based on Margaret Olley's painting Katie's Apples.

Katie’s apples, Margaret Olley, (1989-1992). Photo: Supplied by Art Gallery of New South Wales, © Margaret Olley.Photo: Supplied by Art Gallery of New South Wales, © Margaret OlleyApples (3)

Margaret Olley’s ‘Katie’s apples’ was painted at home, in a ground floor room in the Victorian Terrace that made up the front section of her famous Duxford Street home studio. The apples, brought to her by her friend’s daughter, Katie, look fresh and brightly coloured.4

Olley’s mentors of still life painting were European modern masters – and in this work we see her thinking of Cezanne, who once declared ‘with an apple I want to astonish Paris’. Olley even includes a raffia-corded ginger jar that echoes the jar Cezanne featured in dozens of his own still life compositions...4

Instead of overlapping the objects, Olley raises the perspective so we look down and across the table, showing us the spaces in between the objects, evoking a sense of depth and feeling. In Katie’s apples, Olley sculpts form through light. Deep shadowy tones unify the composition and bright white highlights glint off the fullness of the curves in the apples, vase, jar and plates. Olley creates a new space for us to contemplate these everyday objects - ordinary things become beautiful and meaningful. Even the plain yellow wall in the background, tinted with light from a window across the room, becomes an array of colour and tone mixed on the board with feathery brushwork.4

Now you can watch this wonderful video which discusses Margaret Olley's work and invites you to have a go at producing your own still life.

You can also read through the notes that were produced as additional material for the series. If you are interested click here.

If you are a Facebook user you can check out the Tweed Regional Gallery site and the communication related to this series by Clicking here or using the FB search tool using the hashtag #unlockingmargaretshouse .

I will be back in a week with another Still life challenge from the Tweed Regional Gallery.

Late Mail
A new subscriber has just hopped onboard the AnArt4Life blog and so we extend a very warm welcome to Ron in Australia and we do hope you enjoy the art journey we are providing.