John Olsen: The City’s son, with King Sun & the Hunter 2016

Nov 6, 2016

There are days when it feels special to be a Novocastrian and Friday 4 November 2016 was one of those days – thanks to John Olsen and the opening of his exhibition JOHN OLSEN: The City’s Son at Newcastle Art Gallery (NAG). This new exhibition is the culmination of a nearly 2 year collaboration between our Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton and the artist John Olsen – joint curators of the final product.

Before invited guests, the exhibition was introduced by Liz Burcham, Newcastle’s Cultural Director, opened by Deputy Lord Mayor Cr Jason Dunn and acknowledged and elucidated by John’s son, Tim Olsen. Each spoke positioned between the Olsen works Life Burst and three lithographs – Tree frog 1973, Frog and the lake 1976 and Cat kitchen (black and white) 1973. How appropriate!

The climax of the opening was the unveiling of King Sun & the Hunter 2016. This iconic painting was especially created by John Olsen for the exhibition. To stand before it radiates the soul with warmth, colour, movement and life itself. John Olsen has generously donated to our Gallery the sketchbook of his reflections and observations of the river as it flowed from its source to the harbor and the ocean. Newcastle sketchbook2016 is a real treasure to add to the collection.

The Foundation is very pleased to have purchased King Sun & the Hunterfor the NAG’s permanent collection with the help of NAG, the NAG Society and many generous donors and supporters. But we still need to raise funds to cover the entire cost. Private donors and benefactors are the ‘life burst’ for NAG and its collection, so consider making a contribution toward the acquisition of this magnificent work. All donations above $2 are tax deductible and can be made on this website or at the Olsen inspired Donation Box at the Gallery.

Just a few steps away from our new mural, hangs the ceiling painting The sea sun of 5 bells donated by Foundation Governor member Anne Lewis AO. Viewed from the ground floor, it is stunning.

After the formalities, the doors were opened for everyone to enjoy the exhibition. The crowds entered with anticipation and left with that relaxed glow of pleasure and satisfaction on their faces.

The works capture many iconic Australian places and celebrate our unique environment. Some delight in quintessential Aussie experiences and others share the artist’s gleeful and slightly wicked humour. (  When you visit the exhibition buy the $5 catalogue so eloquently written by Scott Bevan, another talented son of Newcastle.)

John Olsen’s pleasures are also on display in the exhibition. A wonderful cook inspired by time lived in Spain and Portugal, John’s passion for cooking flowed outside and into the Spanish street party alive with flamenco music, dancing and the aroma of Paella.

The vivacity and wonder of the special opening evening was a fitting tribute to Australia’s greatest living artist, well executed by Liz Burcham, Lauretta Morton and the wonderful NAG staff who dressed with Spanish flair and engaged with visitors to enhance their enjoyment of the exhibition. Well done Newcastle Art Gallery and City of Newcastle!

For final reflection, Tim Olsen in unveiling King Sun & the Hunter, left us with a special message. He said it remained his father’s deep desire to see a John Olsen Gallery in Newcastle. A wing of a newly redeveloped NAG perhaps? That’s a cultural ‘Life Burst’ Newcastle should imagine and embrace.


The Newcastle sketchbook 2016, gifted to the Newcastle Art Gallery by John Olsen