Still Life with Hydrangeas and Fruit, c.1999 signed 'Olley' lower left oil on board 67.5 x 90.0cm (26 9/16 x 35 7/16in).
PROVENANCE Private collection, Sydney
Blue and white china was one of Margaret Olley's many passions and it appeared with increasing regularity in her still life paintings. Sometimes she painted a solitary jug collected on one of her many journeys overseas and amassed with cut flowers and at other times, such as in Plumbago, c.2000 (private collection), she would depict an entire kitchen scene replete with her cluttered collection as a celebration of the humble tableware. Still Life with Hydrangeas and Fruit, c. 1999 features a particular jug, which appears in numerous works from this period. A tall fluted receptacle with pleasing vertical blue lines and a robust handle it is both ordinary and beautiful in its intrinsic humbleness. It is the same jug depicted in Habour view, Bottlebrush and Kelim, c. 1999 (private collection). Both works are views from the same room and incorporate another of Olley's favoured formal devices, the window onto the world beyond which also acts as a source of natural light illuminating the scene before us.
In 1998 Olley travelled to London to view the Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Gallery and in the following year she had a solo show in London featuring works clearly inspired by the French master of the ambient still life. Doubtless Olley would have spent hours absorbed in these works including the La Fenêtre, 1925 (Tate Britain) and directly following this she painted a series of still life between 1999 - 2001, which featured a sash window looking out onto Sydney Harbour. The simple white compote of limes and plate with bone handled knife atop a linen cloth is another homage to Bonnard and before him Cézanne whose works she had viewed at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia on another occasion. In Still Life with Hydrangeas and Fruit, c. 1999 not only has Olley paid homage to her beloved French painters she has also made her own characteristic interpretation of the great European tradition of nature morte painting.
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