Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 November 2019


(1876 – 1968, New Zealand/Australian)

oil on wood panel

71.5 x 56.0 cm

signed with initials lower right: KL O’C
signed verso: O’Connor
bears inscription verso: 1613 / 16-6-65 / 5
bears inscription on old label verso: Perth Society of Artists / Kathleen L O’Connor / Perth / 37A Mount St W … / A Dream of Persia / …
signed and inscribed on old label verso: Kathleen L O’Connor / ‘a Persian inspired / … Society of / Artists

$25,000 – 35,000
Sold for $58,560 (inc. BP) in Auction 59 - 27 November 2019, Melbourne

Osborne Art Gallery, Adelaide
Private collection
Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in April 1986


Exhibition of Paintings by Kathleen O’Connor, Osborne Art Gallery, Adelaide, 28 April – 11 May 1965, cat. 5
Possibly: Perth Society of Artists, Skinner Galleries, Perth, June 1965
Australian Art: Colonial to Modern, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 9 – 25 April 1986, cat. 99 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)

Catalogue text

‘Flowers are not just flowers but exist in a vibrating decorative ambiency (sic). This is the essence of the true impressionist outlook’.1

The rich red background of A Dream of Persia recalls the powerful tempera paintings O’Connor executed in the late 1920s, as does the sharp delineation of the individual objects. There are also echoes of the treatment the artist utilised in The Algerian Hat  (lot 35), through the fracturing of the background plane and the potential dissolving of the flowers’ petals. These aspects, combined with the radiant light and the bold, palette knife application of the paint, point to this being executed shorty after her return to Australia in 1948, possibly to make up for the forced destruction of 150 paintings courtesy of the Fremantle Customs officials. The use of the word ‘dream’ in the title also hints at it being a form of memento mori, created in an attempt to capture the memory of happier days in Paris.

When commenting on an earlier still life, In My studio, Paris, c.1935 – 39 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), the critic Robert Hughes observed: ‘When you look at it you see the delectable froth of light breaking up the forms and leaving them still somewhat legible … but what really counts is the exuberant action of the line weaving and flickering through paint strokes of very high-key colour and then anchored by the fat, prosperous curve of the beautifully painted jug. She had a gift for organising image as surface, a fine voyeur-like sort of knitting that few local painters of the time could even approach’.2

1. Elizabeth Young quoted in Harris, M., ‘Kate O’Connor’, Art and Australia, Ure Smith, Sydney, vol. 3, no. 4, March 1966, p. 272
2. Hughes, R., quoted in ‘The Australian National Gallery Building: the collection’, Art and Australia, The Fine Arts Press, Sydney, vol. 14, nos. 3 & 4, Summer – Autumn, January and April 1977, p. 263