Hokitika, Aotearoa New Zealand 1876 – Perth, Western Australia, Australia 1968
In my studio, Paris
Paris, Île-de-France, Ville de Paris department, France
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas mounted on composition board
Kathleen O’Connor arrived in Paris from Australia in 1906 and soon immersed herself in the artistic and cultural life of the city. Frequenting the galleries, cafés and restaurants of Paris’s Left Bank, O’Connor painted by day and took sketching classes at night. She showed her work at prominent exhibitions, but found it difficult to sell and depended upon regular payments from her family in Western Australia to sustain her.
In my studio, Paris, painted when she had been in France for almost 30 years, shows an arrangement of flowers and tea set dissolving into a jubilant shower of light and colour. Form gives way to a celebration of the tactile qualities of paint. O’Connor varied her brushstrokes and application of paint, from areas of bare, primed canvas to the layers of built-up paint of the glass goblet. She often imbued her paintings with a personal narrative, including her favourite objects in various compositions.
O’Connor was inspired by the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists but developed her own unique style, rather than trying to mimic the work of French artists. In my studio, Paris, consistent with O’Connor’s later work, is characterised by a freer use of paint and a lighter palette than the style of flat pattern and tight composition typical of her 1920s still lifes.
While probably best known for her still-life painting and a small number of portraits, she also made many outdoor sketches of scenes from the Paris Luxembourg Gardens. She made a significant contribution to the introduction of Modernism into Western Australia through regular visits, and commentaries on art and fashion sent from France. She returned to Perth permanently in 1955, at the age of 79, where she continued her studio practice.
Lee Kinsella, 2002.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002