An Alley to the Harbour, St. Ives

Edith Collier, Artist

This is one of the watercolours in our collection. It was made in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Great Britain in circa 1920.
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Object Detail

About the Work
By the time Edith Collier arrived in St Ives, Cornwall in July or August of 1920, she had been in England for 7 years. Between 1913 – 15 Edith studied at the St Johns School of Art in London, receiving a sound but conservative and largely academic art education, that would have stood her in good stead to perhaps have a career as an art teacher when she returned to her home town of Wanganui. This was what her family expected of her - to return after her sojourn abroad to settle down, wordly but obliging. However Edith stayed on in England after art school to soak up the new waves of modernism that were beginning to emerge. It was her time spent with the Australian artist Margaret Macpherson in Bonmahon, Ireland and New Zealander – Frances Hodgkins in St Ives that proved to be the most fruitful and productive periods of her career.
It is likely that the Women’s International Art Club (WIAC) in London was where Edith Collier and Frances Hodgkins met and it was during this time that Edith arranged to visit Hodgkins’s summer school at St Ives. Joanne Drayton writes “The fishing village of St Ives offered a rich history as a gathering place for artists but also a great variety of subject matter and motifs. Edith lived and worked closely with members of the Hodgkins class, finding most of her subject-matter among the inhabitants, the fishing boats and wharves, and the narrow streets of the village…Although aware of possible prejudice against her modern work at home, Edith maintained her sense of adventure and commitment to exploring the boundaries of modern art. Frances Hodgkins wrote of her progress in October 1920:
I have one very bright N.Zealander, from Wanganui, Collier by name – who is coming on wonderfully – I’ll make something of her I feel sure…”
Edith produced a large body of work over the two to three months she spent in St Ives, working primarily in watercolour and gouache as well as sketching in pencil and charcoal. Prior to arriving in St Ives, Edith had studied with Margaret Macpherson and seen the work of Matisse and other modern painters. This coupled with the encouragement from Hodgkins led to this period being the most productive time of her career, with the responses to her subject matter being more spontaneous and experimental. Composition is flattened and her palette became simplified and the use of colour more daring.
It is refreshing to see these works enmasse, as they are reflective of Edith’s practice flourishing. Despite wanting to travel abroad with Hodgkins to France, Edith’s family refused to financially support her time abroad and Edith returned to NewZealand at the beginning of 1922.
(Introductory text, 'Edith Collier at St Ives', Greg Donson, 2008)
Image 335 x 267mm
watercolour on paper
Watercolour on paper scene of an alleyway leading steeply downwards to the St Ives harbour/port. At the foreground left is a line of washing, in the middle ground are two male figures (one wearing a black hat), in the distance the St Ives lighthouse is visible on the pier. The image is quite stylised in washes of colour, with areas of flat colour bounded by darker painted outlines or areas of detailed pattern e.g. on the bricks or cobbles. The sea is green and there are curved hills (?) in the far distance.
Credit Line
Collection of the Edith Collier Trust, in the permanent care of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui
Collection Type
Acquisition Date
Circa 1984



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