Image: Kathleen O'Connor in 1966. Photography by Richard Woldendorp.

Being There – Kathleen O’Connor in Paris is presented to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the death of Kathleen O’Connor (1876–1968), who was born in New Zealand and established a professional career in Paris where she settled in 1906 and embraced the bohemian lifestyle in the Artists’ Quarter.

In the first decades of the 20th Century the Artists’ Quarter, on the left bank of the River Seine, was at the heart of international avant-garde literary, artistic and intellectual movements. Kathleen O’Connor moved in the fringes of these circles, studied painting and established networks with many other ex-pat Australian and New Zealand female artists, including Ethel Carrick Fox, Thea Proctor and Bessie Gibson.

Kathleen O’Connor was an artist with a strong family connection to Fremantle and WA, who independently embarked on a creative life far removed from her antipodean roots, to influence the trajectory of painting, fashion and decorative arts in Australia. She was forced to return to Perth in 1948 when she was 72, and struggled for recognition in her home town.

Being There brings together for the first time recent acquisitions and the entire Kathleen O’Connor holding of drawings and paintings gifted to the City of Fremantle in 1978 by Sir Ernest Lee Steere on behalf of his mother, the artist’s sister. The Kathleen O’Connor Gift established the largest holding of the artist’s work in a public collection in Australia.

The exhibition includes loans of artworks and ephemera from public and private collections and is presented to coincide with the release of a new book by Amanda Curtin, Kathleen O’Connor of Paris, published by Fremantle Press.