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Margaret Olley: A Life in Paint (ATOM Study Guide)

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Margaret Olley: A Life in Paint is an intimate one-hour documentary about one of Australia's best-loved painters. A well-known figure from the time she was painted by William Dobell in 1948, Olley's celebrity status tended to overshadow her life as a painter. This documentary puts Margaret Olley the painter on centre stage. Many believe her last works – those painted in the eighteen months leading up to her death on 26 July 2011 – were amongst her finest.

Margaret Olley died in July 2011 – aged eighty-eight – as she was putting the finishing touches to what would be her final exhibition. She was a remarkable artist and a generous supporter of other artists. This documentary gives viewers an insight into the life and work of this greatly admired Australian painter through the recollections of those who knew her and were familiar with her work. We see Margaret Olley painting and talking about her work and learn about her early life and the artists who influenced her distinctive style. Much of the film – including interviews with her friends and with Olley herself – is shot inside the Paddington house in inner Sydney where she lived and worked for so many years. The house itself is more than just a place to work; it embodies and reflects a great deal about the artist herself.

Margaret Olley: A Life in Paint would be an excellent film to show to middle, senior and tertiary students working in Studio Arts and Design subjects. For students interested in the history and development of Australian art, the work of Margaret Olley has a special place. The film would also be a valuable resource in teaching Film as Text or in English classes as a biographical study of an artist's life and work.

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