Full honours for Archibald favourite Ben Quilty’s painting of Margaret Olley.

Sydney-born Ben Quilty has won the 2011 Archibald Prize for his portrait of fellow artist Margaret Olley, the matriarch of Australian painting, the Art Gallery of New South Wales announced in a ceremony today.

The pair first met in 2002 when Olley was a guest judge for the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarhip, which was awarded to Quilty. When the younger artist asked her to sit for a portrait, she initially declined his offer. “Her lack of ego is so appealing,” says Quilty. “Margaret didn’t understand why anyone would want to see a portrait of her.”

In fact, Olley had already been the subject of an Archibald-winning portrait over 60 years ago by another legend of Australian painting, Sir William Dobell, though Olley has never won the prize herself. “I’m proud for him”, the diminutive 88-year-old said of Quilty’s achievement during today’s announcement at the gallery.

In Quilty’s signature impasto style, Olley...

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