John Olsen: Painting A Timeless Land

John Olsen Australian artist, Five Bells painting, painting in blue

John Olsen  is easily recognised as one of Australia’s most iconic and productive artists.       An Australian legend  and inspirational artist whose landscapes clearly reflect his intimate knowledge and feelings for the land.

John Olsen artist
Artist : John Olsen

Five Bells,    oil painting   1973,   New South Wales Art Gallery NSWAG in Sydney, Australia.   A lovely painting, with its bold blue brilliance against the starkness of the white background and seen in person – its just stunning!


John Olsen’s timeless landscapes

Viewing his paintings, you can sense the timelessness of the land. Olsen conveys with ease the  spirit of the land.  He isn’t tied to a rigid western format but has a fluid interpretative and expressive approach. He paints with passion, feeling and sensitivity.

Olsen goes beyond a narrow traditional approach, into what I might term, a wholistic approach.  Looking at the landscape, at the environment from a much wider perspective.

Personally, what I’ve distilled from seeing Olsen’s paintings is the feeling of seeing the bigger picture.   And this, gives me a greater awareness of how all earth’s elements relate and communicate and depend on each other.

How we are all connected.  A very good thing to pause and reflect upon.

John Olsen artist
Artist : John Olsen

Australian Flux,   this detail of the painting  highlights  the intricate layerings and patterns that went into creating the depth of the image.  The bright blue orbs draw the eye while the smooth blue grey, pastel sky shape serves as a calmative to the piece.


Dr. John Olsen was born in 1928 in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.  He travelled abroad into Europe and Africa. He returned and travelled extensively throughout Australia gaining sensitivity and insight into this ancient continent, which is so apparent in his paintings.


Landscapes:  Spirit of the Land,  John Olsen

Nearly all of his works are landscape themed, reading maplike or from an aerial viewpoint.

A creative, clever and inventive artist Olsen is adept at not just oils, but printmaking, ceramics, tapestry, gouache, watercolours.

Clearly,  he’s not an artist that is content to be boxed, pigeon holed into creating only one form of work to just please others!

John Olsen has a string of prestigious awards and accolades:  awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE)     as well as  the Order of Australia. (AO)

He has won the sought after Archibald Art Prize, the Wynne Prize and the Sulman.  Olsen’s paintings are found in the state galleries, the NSWAG (New South Wales Art Gallery) and the Olsen Irwin Art Gallery in Sydney.


All of John Olsen paintings are exquisite in their colour sensitivity,  the mark making,  textural layerings,  and beautiful tonal nuances.

What you will find in every work John Olsen has done – is a great clarity of abundant tonal values.  There is no muddle of flatness.  There is clear evident Light tones, Mid tones, and Deep Dark tones within his paintings.  I love this about him!

While I have only chosen just the two to showcase, if you visit  Olsen Irwin  art gallery and NSWAG  you will get a much broader and exciting view of his more of his inspiring work.


I have to say,  between two Australian artists,  Fred Williams and John Olsen,   I could not pick who would be my ultimate favourite. For over 20+ years, I’ve danced between the two.  I love them both.


I’ve included my painting Mountain In Blues, as it is one that I feel most reflects the Olsen influence upon me.  Have a look at my Gallery page and I’m sure you will see more of that influence on my work.

watercolour mountain in blue,
Mountain in Blues, watercolours,




Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

18 thoughts on “John Olsen: Painting A Timeless Land

  1. Thanks for sharing John Olsen’s dynamic art work. I can see why you are inspired.
    Your Mountain in Blue painting is exquisite. I also reviewed your gallery and I’m very inspired by variety of paintings. I enjoy your posts Debi, and appreciate the knowledge that you pass on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, thanks for introducing me to John Olsen’s art in such a fascinating, detailed and passionate way!! It’s really intriguing to get to know it!

    Liked by 1 person

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