Kathleen O'Connor1876 - 1968 Still life 1933-34
- oil on canvas laid on hardboard
In Kathleen O’Connor’s flat in Montparnasse in Paris in the 1930s, the little table by the stairs is the scene of a dramatic shift in the painter’s work. This still life is a joyous swirl of colour; a fluid expression of the forms of vase, flowers, fruit and chairs, against a richly diffuse background. The brushstrokes give a flickering energy to the picture, anchored by the voluptuous vase in the centre. This still life differs markedly from her more precise, outlined, and design-driven depictions of arrangements on that same table in the 1920s, as exemplified by an earlier O’Connor work in the Wesfarmers Collection, Still life with lamp.
After leaving Western Australia in 1906, O’Connor spent many years in Paris. During the 1930s, when she made this painting, she was enjoying increasing recognition. That era came to an abrupt end in June 1940, when the artist fled the impending German occupation and spent the war in England. By the time she made it back to Paris in 1946, the Montparnasse flat where she had painted this vase of flowers had been demolished. Everything had changed: “… as far as the artists are concerned, the old life has gone. The war broke it all up and took the romance out of it. There is no bohemianism left.”
 Kathleen O’Connor, quoted in the Perth magazine Milady, January 1949
Janda Gooding, Chasing Shadows: The Art of Kathleen O’Connor. Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1996.
P.A.E. Hutchings and Julie Lewis, Kathleen O’Connor: Artist in Exile. Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1987.
Text by Robyn Johnston