Sydney’s Opera House is a beating heart in John Olsen’s practice. In 1973, he completed a now iconic commission for the building - a sprawling mural of Sydney Harbour. The work was inspired by Kenneth Slessor’s poem ‘Five Bells’, which pays tribute to a victim of harbours waters. While one might find this macabre subject matter for a public mural, Olsen perceives the harbour and its surroundings as neither good nor bad; but rather as a force vital enough to give and take life.
In this original etching, Olsen again unites the Opera House with poetry. In it, sun, sky and city collide; a dance of shape, line and life. Beside this, sits a poem entitled ‘Watson’s Bay’. As much about Sydney and its landmarks as Olsen himself, the poem echoes his belief that “I am in the sea-harbour and the sea-harbour is in me”. This is an artist with salt water running through his veins.
Anyone who feels connected to the place in which they live recognises that cities are organisms. Tied to the Opera House, harbour and Watsons Bay by a psychic umbilical cord, Olsen’s vision is for the locals. It perceives Sydney as poetry and the sea as an epic, opening a dialogue between self and place. This work is not only collectible; its heartfelt. For admirers of the artist, Sydney-siders and collectors of important Australian art, come home to ‘Opera House’.
John OLSEN (1928 - 2023)
'Opera House' 2003
etching on paper
Edition of 90
Image Size: 24 x 19 cm
Dimensions: 57 x 75 cm
Signed: Signed, dated and titled bottom margin of the first panel.
Comes with Letter of Provenance
Literature: Ken McGregor, Teeming with Life John Olsen: His Complete Graphics 1957 - 2005, Macmillan Publishers Australia 2005, illustrated page 222 - 223 (another impression from the edition).
Condition: Very Good. 1 cm tear in margin
© John Olsen / Copyright Agency 2023