Australia's Most Famous Artists

| Photo by Catherine Kay Greenup on Unsplash
Tom Smith

Introduce yourself to Australia’s first Indigenous citizen, a painter dubbed ‘the natural enemy of the dull,’ and eight other icons of Australia’s art history. With more than seven million square kilometers of sparkling terrain to explore, Australia supplies no shortage of inspiration for artists. From painting Post-Impressionist depictions of the outback to performing abstract experiments with the colors of the landscape, these are the 10 artists who put the Australian art scene on the map.

To delve into the rich tapestry of Australian art, a visit to an art gallery is a must. Many institutions in Australia showcase the art of both indigenous and non-indigenous artists, offering a comprehensive view of the country’s diverse artistic heritage.

Love reading Culture Trip? How about travelling with us! Our Culture Trips are small-group tours that truly immerse you in a destination through authentic travel experiences. You can also embrace slow travel and the joys of journeying by train on our eco-friendly Rail Trips.

Sidney Nolan

Nolan (1917-1992) grew up in rough-and-tumble Depression-era Melbourne and emerged as one of Australia’s most prolific and celebrated 20th-century artists. Nolan’s vibrant Modernist paintings focused on uniquely Australian stories from the bush – his depictions of Ned Kelly and his gang of bushrangers cemented both Kelly’s standing in Australian folklore and Nolan’s lofty status in the national art scene.

Grace Cossington Smith

Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) was a genuine trailblazer – her 1915 painting The Sock Knitter is considered Australia’s first Modernist work, leading the country’s response to European Post-Impressionism. Cossington Smith’s brilliantly colourful paintings focused on familiar surroundings: everyday Sydney during the 20th century, including many dazzling portrayals of domestic life.

Brett Whiteley

The influence of Vincent van Gogh on the paintings of Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) is obvious and so is the effect of drugs, alcohol and the Vietnam War – Whiteley’s intense, abstract style was his signature before he succumbed to a heroin overdose aged just 53. Today, you can learn more about Whiteley’s life and work at his former studio in Sydney’s Surry Hills – the Art Gallery of New South Wales has transformed his old property into a museum over the past two decades.

Margaret Preston

Once described as ‘the natural enemy of the dull’, Margaret Preston (1875-1963) was an artist ahead of her time. Born in Adelaide and trained in Munich, Paris and London during the era of European Modernism and French Post-Impressionism, Preston was as renowned for her character as her progressive art – she wrote extensively as a cultural commentator, advocating Indigenous and women’s rights earlier than most of her contemporaries.

Albert Namatjira

An Arrernte man from the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory, Namatjira (1902-1959) is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous Indigenous artist. His Western-style watercolours of the ancient Australian outback introduced Aboriginal art to the white community for the first time, and also earned Namatjira the long-overdue distinction of becoming the first Indigenous person to be granted Australian citizenship in 1957.

Fiona Hall

Transforming regular materials into pieces of art, Hall (1953-) uses her work to explore the relationship between nature and culture – literature and ecology are consistent themes. Hall’s early focus on painting and photography expanded into sculpture, installation, moving image and even garden design in the 1990s, boasting residencies at all of Australia’s major galleries and representing the country at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

David Noonan

Born in Ballarat and now based in London, Noonan (1969-) utilises images found in books and magazines to produce screen prints on linen, creating narratives out of this eclectic found material. His monochromatic prints channel the golden age of cinema, and can be found exhibited in ‘La La Land’ Los Angeles itself as well as London, Paris and all of Australia’s top galleries.

John Olsen

There is no more revered living Australian artist than John Olsen (1928-), a 90-year-old national treasure. In the 1960s, Olsen returned to Australia after several years travelling around Europe to paint a series of vivid, dynamic, experimental portrayals of the Australian landscape – a style that has come to define Olsen’s decorated seven-decade career.

Margaret Olley

Growing up on Queensland’s sugar cane farms before cutting her teeth in Sydney’s post-war art scene, Margaret Olley (1923-2011) is Australia’s most famous painter of still life and interiors, inspired by fruit, flowers and pottery. Visitors to New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region can pop into the Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah, a charming gallery that celebrates the artist’s career and legacy.

Simryn Gill

This Singapore-born Punjabi-Australian artist (1959-) uses everyday items to create large-scale pieces that make a resounding impact on the viewer – for example, highway garbage turned into toy cars for Roadkill (1999) or books sculpted into beads for Pearls (2000). Much of Gill’s sculpture, painting and photography also critiques Australia’s callous refugee policy in Southeast Asia.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article