Fishing Boats - 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.
See full details

Object Detail

About the Work
“A large part of Edith’s work is on permanent loan from the Collier Family Trust and forms an important part of the Sarjeant Collection. She was a contemporary of Francis Hodgkins and they worked together and travelled to some similar places in Ireland, France and the UK to paint. The difference was that Francis always struggled as an impoverished artist whereas Edith was supported by her wealthy Taihape farming family.

Much of her good work was done whilst abroad as when she came home at the will of her parents she was somewhat suffocated in her artistic endeavours. For example it is known that her father burned her repertoire of nude works as he found them offensive. Such was New Zealand society at that time.

Recently her nephew, Gordon Collier, encouraged his wider family members to bring their work to his home in Taihape and he had a marvellous exhibition of Edith’s paintings that had largely been unsighted by the public ever before. Thank you Gordon for this great opportunity!!

Very little work comes up on the market as it is mostly held by the Collier family and at the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.

Having always been a lover of the sea and an ex fishmonger I particularly like this nostalgic work of Edith’s painted during her time in St. Ives around 1920. Sailing is also my ultimate passion so another reason for this lovely watercolour to resonate with me.”
- Nicola Williams MNZM, Chairman of the Sarjeant Gallery Trust Board, for the July 2021 instalment of the My Choice exhibition series.

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 314 x 371mm
watercolour on paper
Watercolour scene of boats with figures aboard moored at St Ives. The central boat has a red and black striped sail. Behind the boats is a row of narrow buildings.
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



Accession Number: