Major acquisition for Mosman Art Gallery

Olsen in foreground with painting in Balnaves Gift room

John Olsen at Mosman Art Gallery on Thursday 19 March 2015. Launch of Donation of new Olsen work to Mosman Art Gallery, inspired by Arthur Streeton painting in the Balnaves Gift. Image: Mark Heriot. Courtesy Mosman Art Gallery.

Esteemed Australian artist John Olsen AO OBE has gifted a new painting of Sydney Harbour to the Mosman Art Collection. Titled The Rolling Sea and that Streeton Painting, this new work is a significant acquisition for the Gallery, the municipality of Mosman and for the greater audiences of Sydney.

The painting reveals very personal connections between Olsen, Neil Balnaves AO and Arthur Streeton’s iconic Sydney Harbour 1895.

Philanthropist Neil Balnaves AO donated the Streeton, along with a further fifteen Australian Impressionist paintings that depict the Mosman area, to Mosman Art Gallery in 2012. John Olsen was stimulated into painting his new work after receiving the original invitation to the launch event for the Balnaves Gift – as the Streeton was reproduced on the invitation cover.

ā€œI want to paint a conversation with it.ā€ John Olsen AO OBE

So enthused by this Streeton work, Olsen made immediate arrangements to view the classic painting and promised to paint a new artwork for the Gallery’s Collection in response.  “I want to paint a conversation with it”, Olsen told Mosman Art Gallery Director, John Cheeseman.  

John Olsen went on to write in a letter to John Cheeseman and the Gallery:

            "The painting is an evocation of memory. As students at the Julian Ashton Art School we would delight to take the Manly Ferry when the sea was rough. Round about Balmoral the ferry would roll and the turbulent sea would wash over the deck. How exciting, what fun.The Streeton painting evokes that – notice how the ferry is riding the turbulent sea. When I saw it at the Mosman Gallery, how supremely it is and confirms our experience today.

            'The Rolling Sea...' confirms and emphasises that experience, it is an all at once world.   I can think of no better place for it than to be near Streeton’s painting of 1895 and how that same circumstance can be viewed today."                     

Neil Balnaves AO described his connection: "The Streeton work of Sydney Harbour used to hang directly above my desk. A handful of people used to see it - now 80,000 people see it each year."

"I am delighted that my donation has inspired John Olsen, one of the finest Australian artists of his generation, to not only donate work, but to make great art that will continue to encourage and inspire others."

John Olsen’s name is widely associated with his interpretation of the Australian landscape and of Sydney Harbour. Olsen has lived and worked extensively overseas, but his commitment and sensitivity to Australia, in particular to Sydney and its Harbour surrounds has remained strong throughout his practice.

The Rolling Sea and that Streeton Painting was unveiled at Mosman Art Gallery with special guest comments from Dr Michael Brand, Director of Art Gallery of New South Wales. John Olsen and Neil Balnaves AO were in attendance.  Also in attendance was Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, who officially opened The Balnaves Gift at Mosman Art Gallery in 2012.

The Rolling Sea and that Streeton Painting by John Olsen will be on public view from Thursday 19 March 2015. 

It will sit aside Arthur Streeton’s Sydney Harbour 1895 in the Balnaves Gift at Mosman Art Gallery.

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