AN IMPRESSION OF A TABLE IN MY HOME IN NICE, 1947

Important Australian Fine Art + International Art
Melbourne
27 November 2019
37

KATE O'CONNOR

(1876 – 1968, New Zealand/Australian)
AN IMPRESSION OF A TABLE IN MY HOME IN NICE, 1947

oil on board

61.5 x 50.0 cm

signed lower right: KL O’Connor
signed, dated and inscribed verso: O’Connor / O’Connor / Nice / 1947
signed and inscribed with title on old label attached verso: Impression / of a table in my home / in Nice - / KL O’Connor

Estimate: 
$25,000 – 35,000
Provenance

Sir Arthur and Lady Rymill, Adelaide (label attached verso)
Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

For much of the 1930s, Kathleen O’Connor travelled extensively through France as the paid companion to the wealthy widow, Harriet Stewart Dawson, whom she had first met on board ship when returning to Australia in 1926.1 Dawson often stayed at her villa in Monaco which gave O’Connor the opportunity to explore much of the nearby coastline, including the resort town of Nice, travelling in, she claimed, her employers’ luxurious Rolls Royce.2 The light in this stretch of the Riviera is renowned and had already been a direct stimulus to the work of artists such as Matisse. For O’Connor, it was no different, forming a possible link in her memory to the equally strong sun of Western Australia.

On her return to Paris following the Second World War, O’Connor had four works selected for inclusion in the exhibition Artistes Britanniques sur la Côte d’Azur to be held at the Musée Masséna in Nice in late 1947. When revisiting the city, she decided to stay and began ‘a sojourn of almost a year at the Hotel St Louis’.3 Her biographer Amanda Curtin has observed, ‘there is no evidence of Kate securing studio space in Nice but she did manage to paint. Works from this period include Pink glass – Nice (last identified in family holdings), Ensemble, Nice (private collection) and two portraits’.4 Patrick Hutchings identifies the pink bottle in An Impression of a Table in my Home, Nice as forming part of the collection of objects inherited by the artist’s niece Muriel Dawkins.5 Given O’Connor’s propensity for re-exhibiting old works with new titles in subsequent exhibitions, it is plausible that this painting could be one of the two still lifes identified by Curtin. The inclusion of the exotic location within the revised title may well have been one of her strategies to attract a buyer on her return to Australia. An Impression of a Table in my Home, Nice bears stylistic similarities to Verging on the Abstract, c.1938 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) but presents a richer palette of colours, no doubt reflective of the Riviera’s light.

1. Dawson’s husband was David Stewart Dawson, who founded a successful chain of stores. Following his death in 1932, his widow married a Prince from the Polish royal family in 1938 and sold her villa in Monaco.
2. Patrick Hutchings believes this is an example of O’Connor ‘gilding the lily’ in regard to her biographical details. Having seen photographs of this vehicle, he identifies it instead as a 1930 Vauxhall Grosvenor limousine, a luxurious machine but hardly a Rolls Royce as O’Connor claimed. Conversation with Patrick Hutchings, 20 October 19
3. Curtin, A., Kathleen O’Connor of Paris, Fremantle Press, Western Australia, 2018, p. 194
4. ibid.
5. Conversation with Patrick Hutchings, op. cit.

ANDREW GAYNOR