a therapeutic dose of orange....
as she recalls french doors, curtained with 70's Hicks linen
EmpireLady has made a visual list of all things orange:
Late last year on September 19 it was announced that Margaret Olley had signed a personal cheque for $1 million to enable Edmund Capon to secure Paul Cezanne's post-impressionist painting 'Bords De La Marne' for $16.2 million for the Art Gallery of NSW. "I told him before he went on holiday that if he found a Cezanne I would give him a million dollars," she says. The money was the proceeds from her latest exhibition, kept in an art trust for this purpose. Miss Olley, now 86, has been a prolific patron of the visual arts throughout her life and this donation is perhaps her most dramatic gesture, done in public to inspire others also to donate to the cause. About 85 per cent of the price of the painting has been raised so far. She has also donated either her own work or examples from her private collection to regional and metropolitan galleries throughout her life, usually without any fanfare.
In an age where investing in art has become a national obsession, here is someone who happily gives hers away. Her paintings are now in the blue-chip category but she still prefers a simple life, part of her philosophy for happiness. Miss Olley comes from a humble background, being raised near Lismore during the Depression. As a young child she remembers not getting any pocket money unless she made her bed. As a student in Sydney she paid her way through art school by grape-picking and painting theatre sets for two shillings and sixpence an hour. "I learned generosity at my mother's knee," she says. "My mother and father were the most generous people. My father caught more fish than we ever needed, so he gave the rest away to neighbours. He grew his own vegetables, so he gave them away as well. I learned from them that giving is much better than receiving."
She has had periods of great struggle. She once bought a small property near Newcastle and paid it off through her painting. This was before her work sold for anything close to today's values and she came close to losing the place. She can recall sleeping with the cheque-book open next to her so that she wouldn't forget to make the next repayment. "I worked hard to make myself independent by painting ..... if you're doing what you want to do, it doesn't cost much to live."
Miss Olley states "As you get older, you move to a point where you can give back to society .... the world would be a much better place if all the retired teachers, accountants, plumbers and butchers were encouraged to give back a little bit of their knowledge to society." Giving back is what she has done by helping fund the acquisition of the Cezanne painting. She calls it the most important work in the gallery and hopes it will inspire a new generation of artists in the same way that his work inspired her as a young woman. She sees it as a great investment in social as well as financial terms. "My donation is just the beginning," she says. "I hope that everyone gives what they can."
Biggest break When I came down from Lismore and went to East Sydney Tech [now the National Art School].
Biggest achievement Handing over the money for the Cezanne is the most important thing I have done. I've never written a cheque for a million before. I had to ask Edmund: how many 0s?
Biggest regret None. Regrets are a waste of time.
Best investment Friendships. Unfortunately I've always preferred the company of older people, so that makes it pretty difficult at my age.
Worst investment Buying that property in Newcastle, I suppose. I'm much happier living here in Sydney.
Attitude to money It's only paper, isn't it?
Personal philosophy I don't understand the current obsession with the "me" and the "I". The best way to exist is to forget about yourself and just get on with it.
'Nichols Canyon Road'
and 'A Bigger Grand Canyon' at the Australian National Gallery
EmpireLady would very much like one of these.