Julius Olsson was born in London to a Swedish father and an English mother. He worked in business for four years before he devoted himself to painting, without any training.
He exhibited a painting of Newlyn in 1887 and by then was an important figure in the St Ives school of artists where, from circa 1890 to 1912, despite having little or no formal artistic training himself, he taught alongside Louis Grier and later Algernon Talmage. His work was first accepted at the Royal Academy in 1890, and he joined the New English Art Club in 1891. In 1912 he returned to London. During his time at St Ives, the town drew in many artists and Olsson taught many of them, including Mary McCrossan and Richard Hayley Lever, Reginald Guy Kortright, Emily Carr, John Anthony Park, Charles David Jones Bryant, Robert Borlase Smart and many others. In 1914 Olsson was elected an Associate member of the Royal Academy. During the First World War he served as a lieutenant in the RNVR, giving him the opportunity to paint naval ships in action. He became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1920.
In St Ives, with his artist wife Kathleen, he designed and set up home at what was to become (until 2014) the St Eia Hotel. St Eia was situated with views North to St Ives Harbour and round to the east overlooking Carbis Bay, and during their time there it was to house a studio and become a school of art. He later divorced and married Edith who was the daughter of an Irish horse breeder, and after the marriage he made frequent painting trips both to Ireland and to Sweden.
In the Second World War Olsson was bombed out of his London studio
He also took part in the Salon de Paris: in 1900 he received an honourable mention at the Exposition Universelle, and in 1903 was awarded a third-class medal. He was a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters as well as a full Royal Academican. Essentially a painter of seascapes, he was most fond of sunsets and moonlight
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Birmingham (Mus. and AG): The White Squall
Harrogate (Mercer AG): Seascape off the Isle of Wight (c. 1900, oil on canvas)
London (Nat. Maritime Mus.): A Coastal View With a Lighthouse (oil on canvas)
London (Tate Collection): Moonlit Shore (exhibited 1911, oil on canvas)
Pittsburgh (Carnegie MA)
Worcester (City Mus.): Summer Sea, Newquay (c. 1920, oil on canvas)