On our trip to Sydney we visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales. All state galleries have their good and bad points - this one has an excellent collection of 20th century Australian art and a wonderful little section on often overlooked women painters like Grace Cossington Smith.
I was most taken with this John Olsen painting:
'Five Bells' oil on canvas (1963)
(my son admiring the Olsen. Or possibly the 'castle' in the foreground)
I have a theory about artists (which I believe only applies to visual artists and certainly not to writers and modern musicians although Keith Richards may prove us all wrong).
My theory is that because artists are essentially doing what they want with their lives, and also expressing their inner selves at a very basic human creative level, they tend to live for a very long time. If one can avoid the decadence, drugs and other addictions which sometimes follow (or indeed are required for) creative endeavour, a truly Okinawan life can be yours.
Henri Matisse (died in 1954 at 84)
Georgio De Chirico (died in 1978 at 90)
Salvador Dali (died in 1989 at 83)
Georgia O'Keefe (died in 1986 at 99)
Michelangelo (died in 1564 at 88)
Camille Pissarro (died in 1903 at 73)
Edgar Degas (died in 1917 at 83)
Jean Auguste Ingres (died in 1867 at 86)
Claude Monet (died in 1926 at the age of 86)
Maurice de Vlaminck (died in 1956 at the age of 82)
Robert Rauschenberg (died in 2008 at 82)
Cy Twombly (still alive and working at 82)
And these men (and the one lady) did not necesarily have easy lives painting in little wooden studios overlooking a field of flowers. They saw and were victims of war, poverty, forced migration and other horrors.
Of course, for every one of these there is an Amedeo Modigliani (died in Paris at age 35 in 1920 of tubercular meningitis).
Anyway, the point is that John Olsen, born in 1928, is alive and still painting. Here is a recent work:
'Bondi the Rose Fingered Dawn' (2007) (timolsengallery.com)
An artist whose style is difficult to categorise, John Olsen spent time in Europe in the late 1950s and has also been influenced by Far Eastern art. His abstract expressionist style - with its characteristic 'squiggles' and expert use of watercolour (not an easy medium) has not, to my eye at least, changed significantly over the last 50 years.
Finally, here he is at work (image courtesy clivejames.com photograph by Ken McGregor):