This extract from the article ‘The true face of artistic beauty’ by Adele Horin, published in the SMH on July 30-31, 2011 and entered in the Media Awards gives a clue
“In an era of airbrushing and cosmetic surgery, Margaret Olley’s extraordinary face challenges women to reconsider the vexing business of ageing gracefully.
With its crevices, marks and splotches amplified over three columns in The Sydney Morning Herald front page obituary this week, the late artist’s face was a frank statement of a life fully lived. No evidence here of efforts to soften the ravages of time with anti-ageing ‘product’ and ‘procedures’.
What a face. What a lesson it holds for we women who obsess about crow’s feet and liver spots and wrinkled brows; who hate the tiny lines sprouting like fine hairs above our lips, who hate our necks, and the bags under our eyes and much else that signals we are no longer young.
What does this face tell us? It tells us that conventional beauty is insignificant in the reckoning of a life. Olley, 88, was revered and loved because of who she was, not because she was, at any stage, a beauty. Did anyone care that at some point Olley had ‘let herself go’? No, they wanted to paint her portrait.
People respected her talent, were drawn to her character, admired her generosity, and loved her wicked anecdotes. The outpouring of love for her, expressed on her death, testified to her special qualities and deep relationships. The philosophy she articulated that she was on earth ‘to help’ is what has endeared her to many.
Being 88 with a lived-in face is one thing. Being on the awkward path between middle-age and old-age is another. Does one give up? Does one adopt the attitude of French women for whom looking good and being feminine is a duty unto death? Finding a place on the continuum between Nivea and knife is tricky.
It may be helpful to keep in mind what turns out to be important in life – it is not looks but how one lived. It is not caring over-much about oneself but doing a lot for others. Relationships and work matter. Margaret Olley’s amazing life and amazing face are a testament to true beauty.”