Edith Holmes (1893-1973) was born in the rural community of Hamilton, in Tasmania. She showed great promise at drawing from an early age. Encouraged by her mother, Edith began studying art at the Hobart Technical College in 1918, aged 15. In 1930-31 she received tuition at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School.
A TRUE INDIVIDUAL
‘Tall and slender, with a striking figure, she had strong features with good bone structure. Her hair was dyed a wonderful orange colour and it flowed violently over her forehead almost covering up her bright eyes, A flamboyant dresser, she sported large, old-fashioned hats….scarves and wide belts of amazing colour and pattern that allowed her to stand out from the crowd.‘ (Australian Dictionary of Biography)
For most of her life Edith lived with her parents at a cottage called Dilkoosha, in Charles Street, Moonah.
Edith was 43 when a review of her exhibition in Melbourne suggested that she ‘…may develop into something really good.’
At the International Club, 177 Collins Street, at 3 pm today. Miss Edith Holmes is holding an exhibition of her paintings, which will be opened by Mr Arnold Shaw. Miss Holmes hails from Tasmania, and she is interested in Melbourne’s city architecture. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a good impression of a city skyline, and a view of Mount Wellington, Hobart, is massive in its treatment and effect. True tone does not interest her much, nor does accurate drawing for that matter. Flower studies are of the conventional type, briskly handled. Miss Holmes is a painter with a personal outlook, which may develop into something really good. Her unbounded enthusiasm for her art will probably carry her through. (The Argus, 5 December 1938)
Here are some excerpts from an interview Edith gave to a reporter from The Mercury on May 3, 1967.
A woman with a sense of humour, she quipped… just as her photograph was about to be taken; “I wore my best coat in the hope that it would come out better than my face.”
To the question ‘Artists are generally considered eccentrics, Do you consider yourself so?’ She answered, “DEFINITELY NOT. I consider myself an individual, and I hope I’m original, but eccentric – definitely not.“
Below is the first verse of a poem on Edith, written late in her life by the Hobart born poet Vivian Smith (1933….);
TO ONE’S OWN SELF BE TRUE – EDITH HOLMES CERTAINLY WAS!
The final verses of Smith’s poem reflect that Edith Holmes was not driven by a desire for critical acclaim. Rather, she was fulfilled by joy and confidence in her work and by her enthusiasm for the Tasmanian landscape. A favourite subject was Mount Direction. The following painting is a view of the mountain from Moonah, quite possibly from the front garden at Dilkoosha.
Hobart photographer Marie Piscioneri photographed Edith (and other Tasmanian artists) in the 1960s. My thanks to her son Matthew Piscioneri for providing me with these lovely images.
Edith was still painting at this time. Geese and Trees was completed in the late 1960s;
Edith Holmes died on August 26 1973. She was buried with her mother Lilla Holmes (nee Thorne) at Forcett cemetery in south-east Tasmania, where the Thorne family had settled in the early 1800s.
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