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O'Connor, Kathleen Laetitia (1876 - 1968)

Born
14 September 1876
Hokitika, New Zealand
Died
24 August 1968
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Occupation
Painter

Summary

Kathleen O'Connor was born in New Zealand in 1876 to Charles Yelverton O'Connor and his wife Susan Laetitia. She was educated at Marsden School, Wellington, then taught privately after 1891, when the family moved to Perth, Western Australia, in order for her father to take up a post as a goverment civil engingeer. Kathleen O'Connor then studied art at Perth Technical College, and later in London and Paris, where she relocated in 1910. There she attended night classes and immersed herself fully in the artistic and cultural milieu that Paris offered, attending galleries and lectures, and writing about her experiences for Perth newspapers.

O'Connor began exhibiting extensively - in the Salons d' Automne (1911-32), des Independants, and de la Société des Artistes Français. She moved to London in 1914 and exhibited with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in 1915 and the National Portrait Society in 1916, before returning to Paris. In the early 1920s she began working in the decorative arts and fashion, as well as interior design and fabric painting. In 1926 she returned to Australia, working briefly for David Jones and Grace Brothers department stores, producing hand-painted plates and fabrics. After a solo exhibition in Perth, O'Connor returned to France in 1927. She kept working, and exhibiting regularly - in 1934 at la Société Internationale des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs, and Exposition des Femmes Artistes d'Europe, Musée du Jeu de Paume and Galéries J. Allard in 1937. She left Paris in 1940 just as the Germans were arriving, and spent the remainder of World War II in Britain.

Returning to Paris after the War, she found her Paris studio expropriated. After exhibiting in Nice in 1948, she returned to Fremantle with 200 pictures, which were impounded, subject to 20% import tax. She was forced to destroy 150 pictures and pay the tax on the rest, despite being an Australian citizen and not liable. She exhibited in 1948 at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and at Perth's Claude Hotchin Gallery in 1949 and 1950. After another trip to Paris, she settled reluctantly in Western Australia in 1955. O'Connor won the Western Australian section of the Perth Prize Competition in 1958 and the B.P. prize, Commonwealth Games art competition in 1962, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia held a retrospective in 1967. O'Connor died in Perth in 1968. Since she had refused to be buried there, her ashes were scattered in the sea.

Details

Sources used to compile this entry: Gooding, Janda, Chasing shadows: the art of Kathleen O'Connor , Craftsman House, East Roseville, New South Wales, 1996; Hutchings, P. AE., and Lewis, Julie, Kathleen O'Connor: Artist in Exile, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, Western Australia, 1987; McCulloch, Alan; McCulloch, Susan; McCulloch, Emily Childs, New McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, Fitzroy, Victoria, 2006; Watson, James, 'O'Connor, Kathleen Laetitia (1876-1968)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A110061b.htm.

Archival resources

JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia

  • [Interview with Kathleen O'Connor] / [interviewed by Hazel de Berg], 1965, OH2377/23; Hazel de Berg collection; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details
  • Papers, 1911-1981 [manuscript], 1911 - 1981, MN 1405; ACC 4417A; O'Connor, Kathleen Laetitia (1876 - 1968); JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection

  • Conversation with Kathleen O'Connor [sound recording] / interviewer: Hazel de Berg, 1965, ORAL TRC 1/95; National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection. Details
  • Ernest Lee-Steere interviewed by Helen Topliss [sound recording], ORAL TRC 3116; National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection. Details

Lisa MacKinney

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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