“In a Bohemian Atmosphere”, by Kathleen O’Connor
Painted when O’Connor lived in Paris, the scattered playing cards, the empty wine glass and the copper coffee pot suggests a moment from the end of the evening, just as the guests have left. Kathleen O’Connor (1876 - 1968) moved from Perth to Paris in 1906, and she lived there for almost fifty years, returning to Perth in 1955. She exhibited regularly in Paris and London, as well as sending paintings to exhibitions in Perth. The artist was the daughter of C. Y. O’Connor, the celebrated Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia, who was famous for the creation of Fremantle Port and the Goldfields Pipeline. This painting was one of fifteen which was stolen in 1972 from the Shire Hall, where it had been hanging. Nine months later, the paintings were handed in by the thief’s brother, who had accidentally discovered the fruits of his brother’s crime. This was not the only adventure of this painting. When Hotchin donated this oil painting to the Shire in 1956, little did he or the Shire know that this painting contained not one painting, but two! It was only when it was being restored many years later, in the early 1990s, that another painting, a nude, was discovered on the back of the hardboard panel. Taking great care, the panel was split through its centre, to create the two stand-alone paintings. What a find!