born Newcastle, New South Wales 1928
John Olsen began his career as a freelance cartoonist for publications such as Man and Fashion Design. Olsen attended the Datillo Rubbo Art School in 1947 and the Julian Ashton Art School in 1950 under the tuition of John Passmore and Godfrey Miller.
In 1957 Olsen travelled to Majorca, where his work was transformed by the influences of European art and the Mediterranean. Back in Sydney in 1960 he began work on his first major artwork, Spanish Encounter. Over the next two years he executed the You Beaut Country series.
In 1968 Olsen established the Bakery Art School, and in 1973 he completed the Sydney Opera House mural Salute to Five Bells, inspired by Kenneth Slessor’s poem. In the 1970s and 1980s he travelled on several important trips to the outback, particularly the Kimberly and Lake Eyre.
In 1977 Olsen was awarded the O.B.E. for services to the Arts and in 1993 he was awarded an Australian Creative Fellowship. Dr John Olsen received an Order of Australia in 2001. Amongst many other awards throughout his career, he was also awarded the Wynne Prize in 1969 and 1985, and theArchibald Prize in 2005.