Vic O'Connor

1918 - 2010

Between 1939 and 1947 O’Connor exhibited with Melbourne’s social realist group (which included Noel Counihan, Yosl Bergner and James Wigley amongst others). These artists sought to rally against established artistic values and depicted life from a more left wing perspective. They fundamentally believed that politics and art should not be separated, a belief that brought them into conflict with other members of the CAS.

As a young boy O’Connor worked with his family at the Victoria Markets in Melbourne where his parents sold homemade slippers. This era had a significant and life long effect on O’Connor who observed the hard work, the comradeship and the poverty that was often associated with market life

His earliest works, lino prints and pencil and ink drawings dating from the 1930s, are keen and sensitive observations of the people and the streets that he encountered during his youth, and his concern for the urban poor has remained as a continuing theme in his work
As a young man, O’Connor also became acutely aware of the effects of fascism and war (he was conscripted in 1939) and chose to take an active part in cultural and political debate. The paintings, drawings and prints from this period, when he worked as a part of Melbourne’s social realist group, are amongst his most passionate. In 1943 O’Connor became a member of the communist party

For O’Connor art was and is essentially a form of social expression and his paintings, drawings and prints have always reflected this outlook. Whether his chosen subjects are the refugees of Eastern Europe or the characters and scenes inspired by Russian literature, or the alleyways, the people, the cafes and the streets of Melbourne, O’Connor has continued to be inspired by the romance of the underdog and largely by stories of human interest

Represented: The Australian National Gallery Canberra; State Galleries in Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth; Regional Galleries at Mornington, Warrnambool, Mt Gambier, Bendigo and Benalla; Melbourne and Queensland University Collections