Painter, teacher born 1928, in Newcastle.
After studying in Sydney in the early 1950s, Olsen's potential was recognised and he was paid to travel and paint in Europe, spending time in Paris and Majorca. On his return, Olsen introduced an expressionistic type of painting to other young Sydney painters, "You Beaut Country" signalling the beginning of his subsequent success.
Olsen's feeling for the Australian environment was demonstrated in his landscapes which were teeming with life, with irregular squiggles and dots imposed on loosely brushed and stained expanses of colour.
In 1968, Olsen set up and ran the Bakery Art School, running it until 1970. It was in 1970 that he received a commission, from the Dobell Foundation to paint the Sydney Opera House mural, "Salute to Five Bells", inspired by a poem by Kenneth Slessor.
In the mid 70s, Olsen travelled with naturalist, Vincent Serventy, on several tours of Central Australia, an experience which gave his map-like drawings a lyrical and ecological quality. In 1978 his travels extended to Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.
In Olsen's work, space is not depicted in the traditional sense, nor is 'human scale' evident. His watercolours show a close affinity to oriental ideas of landscape, their vitality and fluency creating some of the greatest works of Australian landscape painting. Olsen is recognised nationally and internationally as one of Australia's most significant and accomplished artists.
John Olsen received an Order of Australia (A.O.) in 2001. In 1977, he was awarded the O.B.E. for services to the Arts and in 1993 he was awarded an Australian Creative Fellowship. John was awarded the Wynne Prize in 1969 and 1985 for his landscapes and the Archibald Prize in 2005, for his self portrait, "Janus Faced".
John Olsen's work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, state galleries and many regional galleries. Today he lives in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.