During her childhood in Wanganui, New Zealand, Edith became an accomplished cellist and played chamber music in a quartet in which her father led as violinist. Her mother gave her lessons in watercolour, in which she excelled. After leaving school she attended Wanganui Technical School to further her studies in art. Encouraged by the artist Herbert BABBAGE to study abroad, she came to Europe in 1912, studying art in London and in Ireland. She made a good friend of the Australian artist Margaret Macpherson, whose encouragement gave Edith the confidence to exhibit at the SWA.
She remained in England during WWI because her brothers and cousins were fighting in Europe, and she felt the need to be available to help them with money, mail and hospitality when required. In 1920/21 she attended classes in St Ives with Frances HODGKINS, a fellow New Zealander, who felt that she showed tremendous potential. On the strength of this, Hodgkins invited Edith to accompany her on a painting trip to France. Unfortunately Edith's parents, who had supported her financially while abroad, withheld their permission, insisted that she come home after such a long absence.
After she returned to New Zealand she gave up serious painting to concentrate on personal and family matters. As the eldest of nine children (and an unmarried daughter) she was expected to dedicate herself to the care of her ageing parents. She was poorly treated by her father who burned many of her paintings (of the nude). Edith's modernist work was way ahead of its time and was negatively received by her community. Without the stimulus of a supportive artistic network, she lost confidence and focussed instead on her role as a devoted aunt to a growing number of nieces and nephews (37 in total).
She was chosen to represent New Zealand at the Empire Artists' Exhibition in London in 1937. Retrospective exhibitions of her work were held in New Zealand (including works painted there) in 1927 and 1955. On her death in 1964 in Wanganui, many of the younger generation of her family had no idea she had been an artist.
works and access
Access to work: Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui; Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
Empire Artists' Exhibition in London 1937
Women's International Art Club, New Zealand
New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts (Group) 1927, 1928
Retrospective Exhibitions1927 and 1955
misc further info
Academy Notes 1882
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Drayton (1999) Edith Collier - her life and work 1885-1964
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p319)
Hoyle, H (July 2011 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Edith Collier - New Zealand's Forgotten Artist'
Platts 19th Century NZ Artists
Tovey (2010) Sea Change (pp.149-151)
Whybrow (1994) St Ives