Australian art legend Margaret Olley dies

One of Australia’s most loved artists – Margaret Olley – has died in Sydney aged 88.

A spokeswoman for the Art Gallery of NSW says Olley was found dead at her Paddington home in Sydney, early on Tuesday morning.

Born in 1923, Olley grew up on sugar-cane farms in northern NSW and Queensland.

She began painting as a young girl at boarding school in Brisbane, going on to become one of Australia's most respected still-life and interior artists, according to AAP.

At 19 she began studying art at East Sydney Technical College where according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, "my life began, I was like a flower suddenly pollinated".

She battled alcohol in her early years and depression in later but overcame both and painted most days right up until her death.

Olley never married or had children, but was known as a wonderful and loyal friend to many artists of all generations.

She once described herself as "a one-woman band, too independent to be subservient to anyone".

She held her first solo show in 1948 and more than 90 others have followed.

She described her work as: "I never see myself fitting in anywhere. I just like to lose myself in the work, let the painting take over."

In 1991, she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service as an artist and to the promotion of art.

In 2006, Olley was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order, for service as one of Australia's most distinguished artists, for philanthropy to the arts, and for encouragement of young and emerging artists.

"It's such a great award. I'm overawed," Olley said at the time. "I thought just judges and just very important people got it.
"I'm not important. I just do what I want to do."

She become of the country's most generous benefactors to public galleries, including the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Contemporary Art, and she held honorary doctorates from the Macquarie, Sydney, Queensland and Newcastle universities.