"My impression of Edith" by Orlaith Hamersley.
WATERFORD’S Copper Coast Geopark continues to play host to many different events which promote the heritage and geology of this spectacular area of Ireland’s coastline.
The latest project which is being undertaken by a group of proactive locals focuses on showcasing the work of a respected New Zealand artist who spent time painting in Bunmahon.
The name Edith Collier may not be familiar to many people, but an exciting new exhibition which opens this week aims to bring the work of this 20th century Modernist painter to the attention of the wider Waterford public.
Edith Marion Collier was born in 1885 in Wanganui, New Zealand, and 2015 marks 100 years since this progressive artist and a group of her contemporaries spent the summer sketching and painting in Bunmahon and the surrounding area.
To celebrate this occasion, and for the first time in Ireland, members of the public will have the opportunity to discover the beauty of Edith Collier’s work in a special exhibition in Bunmahon where reproductions of the local landscapes and people which she worked on will be displayed.
In 1912, Edith left her native New Zealand to study in London and enrolled at St John’s Wood School of Art.
Two years later, she travelled to Bunmahon with group of art students to study and work with Miss Margret McPherson.
She returned in 1915 and, along with her fellow group members, hired accommodation in Osborne Terrace for eight months.
Her portrait studies of the local people and her paintings, prints and sketches of their dwellings, and of the dramatic scenery in and around Bunmahon, are regarded as being among her finest works.
One such painting is the impressive ‘Littleschoolboy of Bunmahon’ (pictured).
While in Waterford, Edith wrote to inform her parents that “Ireland is the country to paint” and “Bunmahon is a grand place for painting. Models of all sorts, seascapes, and landscape without going far”.
After her time in Bunmahon, she returned to London and continued painting.
A critical review in 1917 made reference to Edith’s Bonmahon inspired work, saying: “E.M. Collier’s ‘Rocks on Bonmahon’ is excellently composed and the forms are cleverly simplified”.
After her return to New Zealand in 1922, the progressive Edith unfortunately had to contend with much ignorance and prejudice.
She received savage criticism of her work on her return to her native land and negative responses from within her own community.
A few years after her return home, her father lit a bonfire and deliberately destroyed the majority of her paintings of the female nude.
Unsurprisingly, this event significantly impacted on Edith’s confidence and she painted less and less during the 1940s and 1950s.
She died in New Zealand on 12th December 1964.
Now, the Copper Coast Geopark has been granted unprecedented permission to reproduce Edith Collier’s Irish works.
Members of the Edith Collier Centenary Celebration Committee, chaired by Tina Keating and including Paula McCarthy, Orlaith Hamersley, and Karen Toebbe, have worked tirelessly to introduce this exceptional lady to the Waterford public.
A collection of 26 high quality reproductions will be on exhibit at the Copper Coast Geopark auxiliary exhibition space in Knockmahon, Bunmahon (just beside the visitor centre) for four weeks.
The official launch takes place this Friday September 18th at 7.30pm.
Well-known local historian Julian Walton and Chair of the Edith Collier Trust Fiona Horrocks will be in attendance as special guest speakers.
The exhibition will be open from 11am to 4pm Monday to Friday and from 1pm to 5pm at weekends.
This exhibition has been made possible by the kind permission of The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui, New Zealand; The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, Tongarewa, New Zealand; and The Edith Collier Trust, Whanganui, New Zealand.
A booklet written by Orlaith Hamersley titled ‘Edith Collier’s Bunmahon’ will also be launched this Friday.
The booklet explorers Edith’s background and showcases some of the fine paintings she created while in Waterford.
Additionally, a guided tour of Bunmahon highlighting some of the beautiful locations in Edith’s paintings is planned for Saturday September 19th at 11am, starting from the Copper Coast Auxiliary Exhibition Space.
This tour will include a visit to the exhibition followed by a guided walk of Bunmahon, visiting some of the beautiful locations painted by Edith Collier during her time in Bunmahon which are still recognizable today.
The tour will return to the Copper Coast Geopark Visitor Centre for a complementary cup of tea or coffee.
The tour leaders will be Jim Cullinane and Orlaith Hamersley and admission is €5, with accompanying children free.
If you can’t make it to Bunmahon, don’t worry as you will have another chance to visit the “Edith Collier’s Bunmahon” exhibition at the Coastguard Cultural Centre, Love Lane, Tramore from October 20th to November 3rd.
More events are planned for the coming months.
This exhibition is a fantastic idea and is sure to prove popular, particularly with locals who will have the opportunity to view how their area was viewed by this intriguing New Zealand artist all those years ago.
For more information visit www.edithcolliersbunmahon.wordpress.com.