Dr Margaret Olley AC

Dr Margaret Olley AC was an acclaimed Australian artist and philanthropist.

Born in Lismore in 1923, Dr Olley moved between Townsville, New South Wales and Brisbane during her childhood and schooling years. While completing high school at Somerville House in Brisbane, she took art lessons under acclaimed artist Caroline Barker. She went on to undertake tertiary studies on the subject in Brisbane and Sydney.

Primarily a still life artist, she was most known for her interior portraits that showcased her surroundings – often carefully curated to feature references to other artists and her travels. In 1948 she was the subject of William Dobell’s Archibald Prize-winning piece. She would go on to feature in a second Archibald Prize-winning portrait in 2011, in which she posed for her friend and mentee Ben Quilty.

Throughout her life, Dr Olley held more than 90 solo exhibitions. She was an active member of the arts community, mentoring young artists, and giving generously to galleries and museums. In 1999 she was awarded a Doctor of Letters honoris causa by UQ, and in 2006, she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia.

She passed away in 2011. In 2012, the last paintings she completed before her death were featured in an exhibition entitled The Inner Sanctum of Margaret Olley. Dr Olley had completed her contributions to the exhibition the day before her passing.


Doctor of Letters honoris causa