The National Art School will be celebrating the acclaimed artist and NAS graduate John Olsen in their upcoming exhibition ‘John Olsen: Goya’s Dog.’

NAS Director, CEO and Curator of this exhibition Steven Alderton says: “John Olsen is one of the National Art School’s most renowned graduates, a NAS Fellow, AO and OBE. Goya’s Dog features more than 60 of his major works, sketchbooks and drawings, including new works made this year and many from private collections not seen in public for generations.”

‘Goya’s Dog’ begins in Spain during the mid 1950s, where Olsen became entranced by Spanish culture. The art, poetry, literature and music drew him to explore a darker and more vulnerable side of his personality and life experience.

On his time in Spain Olsen says: “I became aware that even though Spain is a bright and sunny country, that its principal painting lay on the basis of tone – Velazquez, Goya, Murrillo – and somehow those earthy tones reverberated the soul of Spain.”

“It was very profound… rather than thinking outwards, it made you think inwards.”

A main theme in Olsen’s paintings is the image of a dog. It was on a return visit to Spain in 1985 that Olsen was struck by Francisco Goya’s painting, The Drowning Dog (1820-1823). After seeing the painting, he vowed to bring the dog back to Australia and painted ‘Goya’s Dog – Life Escaping the Void’ the same year.

The exhibition will showcase Olsen’s works from the 1970s-90s, a period in which his ‘larrakin’ voice emerged, as well as the development of his exploration of metaphysical life and mortality.

Olsen says: “I’m 93, and I’m more entranced with the dark side. Not in a mournful sense, but in a sense of enquiry.”

Steven Alderton added: “John has always followed his lifelong urge to set sail into the unknown.”

“Through the storms, struggles and soul searching, he has found periods of illumination, when he can capture the energy and elemental life forces of nature, and what it is to be human in this world.”

The exhibition offers a look into the mind of a great artist, and challenges the individuals ideas of ones interior world and relation with the exterior world within their life.

The National Art School has also partnered with Minderoo Foundation to bring the works together from around Australia. The Minderoo Foundation is an independent, Australian philanthropic organisation that is an active and strategic supporter of the Australian arts and culture sector, hoping to build creative communities.

The National Art School’s exhibition ‘John Olsen: Goya’s Dog’ will run from Friday 11 June to Saturday 7 August at the National Art School.  

Further information and tickets are available at

Image: John Olsen -Le Soleil, 1965.

Le Soleil is a ceiling painting that was commissioned from John Olsen. It is part of a private collection and has not been seen in Australia since 1965. In May 2021 the NAS Gallery team went to the Sydney home the painting resided in and brought it to the NAS Gallery to be put on show.