Journey into the you beaut country no. 1

John Olsen1961

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne, Australia

Between the years 1957 and 1960 John Olsen was travelling and working in Europe. On his return to Australia he embarked on his inspirational ‘You beaut country’ series. Exuberant and colloquial, the series was marked by a re-visioning and reassessment of the Australian landscape. This painting of 1961 takes the viewer on an exploratory, painterly journey into a landscape of memory and imagination. The painted forms of this landscape include signs of plants, birds and animals against a thin, sky-coloured background. This is a landscape of discovery where observation rewards us with an abundance of bush life. Olsen involves us in the mystery, excitement and discovery of the bush.

Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia


  • Title: Journey into the you beaut country no. 1
  • Creator: John Olsen
  • Date Created: 1961
  • Location Created: Sydney, Australia
  • Physical Dimensions: 152.2 x 121.4 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1961, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil on composition board
  • Place Part Of: Australia
  • Biography: John Olsen was born at Newcastle, New South Wales on 21 January 1928. In 1947 he began work as a clerk for Elders Smith but left soon after to sell his drawings and cartoons freelance to magazines. He had, the year before, attended a few night classes at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney and in 1947 attended drawing classes at Datillo Rubbo's art school. In 1950 he became a full-time pupil at the Julian Ashton School and attended some classes at the East Sydney Technical College. He began to exhibit his work in the early 1950s. In 1956 Olsen was privately sponsored to go to Europe, where he lived and worked in London, France and Spain until 1960. After his return to Australia he taught at East Sydney Technical College, the University of New South Wales, the Desiderius Orban, Mary White and Armidale art schools. From 1965 to 1967 he visited New York and worked in London, as well as France and Portugal, where he looked at the tapestry workshops. Upon his return to Australia in 1968 Olsen established the Bakery Art School in Paddington but at the end of the year left for Victoria where he settled at Clifton Pugh's Dunmoochin at Cottlesbridge. There he began to paint regularly out-of-doors. In 1971 he returned to Sydney. Throughout the 1970s he explored many remote parts of Australia and began work on the Australian Broadcasting Commission's television series Wild Australia. During the 1980s he made several visits to Spain. From 1976 to 1981 Olsen was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and later at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. He has collaborated with authors and publishers and illustrated several books. In 1986 Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, mounted John Olsen - in search of the open country 1961–1986 and the National Gallery of Victoria mounted John Olsen, a retrospective in 1991.

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