Life lessons from Margaret Olley and Robert Klippel

Robert Klippel

I have recently had the pleasure of visiting both the NSW and the Queensland Art galleries. I always feel better for such visits, they are good for the soul and Brisbane’s warmth was also good for the body! The Prado exhibition in Brisbane is well worth seeing and there were paintings there which I confess to not remembering from visiting the Prado itself. Apart from the actual paintings there is also La Sala del Prado where you can eat tapas and drink Spanish wine, paint still lifes on paper or on computer screens or superimpose your own image onto a great portrait such as that of King Philip of Spain as you can see above. I expect a little more respect now that my lineage has been established!

The Art Gallery of NSW is looking wonderful and the extra space which used to be storage area, while relatively small, makes a big difference. The two Archibald Prize winning portraits of Margaret Olley are hanging side-by-side. William Dobell’s 1948 portrait is wonderful but I prefer Ben Quilty’s 2011 winner. I like Quilty’s style and he has pictured Margaret very much as I knew her. As I gazed at the portraits I couldn’t help but think that we can learn a lot from Margaret’s life. Through the exuberance and beauty of her paintings she gave and gives pleasure to so many. Leaf through the currently available book of her work and I guarantee a smile will come to your face. Margaret was also very generous both in cash and spirit. She donated huge amounts to various art galleries and encouraged many young artists. If we can all do things to bring smiles to faces and be generous in spirit, and cash if we have it, the world will be a better place.

Further into the gallery I came across a number of Robert Klippel’s sculptures. Bob lived in Balmain and was thought by many to be Australia’s greatest sculptor. Robert Hughes wrote in the 1960’s, “Klippel is an outstanding figure of Australian art and one of the few sculptors worthy of international attention.” Bob and I often chatted in the street and in the shop and I watched with sadness as he grew more and more frail and bent. When he became physically unable to do his ‘big’ sculptures, some of which are in the AGNSW, he scaled down the size of his work. Near the end he could no longer do even small works in his usual media, wood and metal. Undeterred he turned to paper and did some exquisite work with that material. The lesson I suggest is that when we cannot do everything we want to do, for whatever reason, we should do what we can, keep going and enjoy it. Now somehow I have to put that lesson into effect on the tennis court and forget my frustrations when I can’t hit the shots I could 20 years ago!


About braysbooksblog

Independent booksellers since 1969.
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