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The Lost Modernist: Michael O'Connell

Bendigo Art Gallery

26 November 2011 – 19 February 2012

A Bendigo Art Gallery exhibition

The Lost Modernist examined the work of British/Australian textile artist Michael O’Connell. Born in Cumbria in 1898 O’Connell moved to Australia in 1920. Over the following 17 years he became a critical member of the burgeoning Modernist movement in Melbourne.

O’Connell, a member of the Arts and Crafts Society of Melbourne, made an enormous contribution to the development of Modernism in Australia through his innovative and dynamic textiles. Furthermore on his return to the UK in 1937, O’Connell became a key figure in contemporary textile design, working with renowned textile manufacturer Heals. O’Connell was also commissioned to produce the celebrated Festival of Britain wall hangings in 1951, which are now in the collection of the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading.

The exhibition was co-curated by Professor Harriet Edquist, Director, Design Archives RMIT University and Tansy Curtin, Curator, Bendigo Art Gallery. A book on the life and work of O’Connell was published concurrently.

Michael O’Connell, Textile c1933, block printed linen, National Gallery of Victoria, Purchased 1988. Courtesy of the artist's estate