John Henry Olsen (b.1928)
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John Henry Olsen (b.1928)

Portrait of Robert Hughes

John Henry Olsen (b.1928)
Portrait of Robert Hughes
signed and inscribed 'Portrait of / Robert Hughes / John Olsen' (lower right)
mixed media on card
19 ½ x 25 5/8in. (49.5 x 65cm.)
Private collection, USA.
R. Hughes, 'The pub at the Loo celebrates a one-man art boom', Sunday Mirror, 10 March 1963, p.43 (illustrated).
P. Anderson, Robert Hughes: The Australian Years, Sydney, 2009, p.100.
Sydney, Terry Clune Gallery, An Exhibition of Recent Paintings Gouaches & Drawings by John Olsen, March 1963.
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Lot Essay

‘Everything I know about painting I learned in John Olsen’s old Victoria Street studio in Kings Cross.’
(R. Hughes, quoted on the back cover of J. Olsen, Drawn from Life, Sydney, 1997)

A portrait of the acclaimed Australian art historian and writer, Robert Hughes (1938-2012), himself an artist in his early years and part of the lively art scene that formed in Sydney in the 60s. Unlike in Melbourne, where a number of artists were fighting to defend figurative art by forming the Melbourne Antipodeans and releasing The Antipodean Manifesto in February 1959, the artists in Sydney embraced abstraction in their work, and were influenced by Kandinsky, Klee, Cézanne and Mondrian. Artists including William Rose, John Passmore, Stanislav Rapotec, Eric Smith and John Olsen were part of this scene, exhibiting variously together as a group, as well as in individual shows. An artist as well as critic, Hughes held several solo exhibitions of his works at this time. He became a great champion, as well as friend, of Olsen during this time.

This portrait of Hughes is part of a body of works Olsen painted upon his return from Europe in February 1960. Sydney, the harbour, light and bustling pace of life inspired Olsen and the pictures that came out of this period are considered some of his best work.

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