Image courtesy of Bridget McDonnell Gallery

Vic O’Connor 'Study for card players'
Based on a story 'Old Friends' by Pincus Goldhar   (Pencil 1968)

Literature and Writers

Vic started reading widely as a school boy and continued into adult life. His older brother had a good library of books and Vic read Scott, Dickens and Hardy among others. As a young law student and articled clerk he frequented the State Library and spent much time browsing the city’s bookshops, reading literature, poetry and gaining access to art books and magazines. The latter were an important source of knowledge of the art world for him and one of the first artists to impress him strongly was Kathe Kollwitz. Throughout his life, literature provided much subject matter for his paintings.

In the 'Three Realists Exhibition' in 1946 Vic showed a number of paintings and drawings based on Herz Bergner’s novel Between Sky and Sea , the book that Judah Waten was translating from Yiddish to English for publication by Dolphin Publications (established by Vic and Judah). Over the years Vic painted figures from a number of stories by Yiddish writers, including I L Peretz, Pincus Goldhar and Isaac Bashevis Singer. He noted of the latter, ‘I paint Singer because a lot of his stories contain something which is relevant to modern society and I like to translate it into pictorial form’.

He enjoyed the irony of some of the stories, for example in his painting of two impoverished men playing cards, gambling for stakes of millions.

In the 1960s Vic’s work included illustrations to stories by Maxim Gorky. Over time his subjects were also drawn from stories and plays by authors including,Nikos Katzantzakis, Charles Dickens, Sean O’Casey (the play Juno and the Paycock), Nikolai Gogol (the novel, Dead Souls), Berthold Brecht and Leo Tolstoy.

His friendship group included a number of Australian writers, including Alan Marshall, Judah Waten, David Martin, John Morrison, and also Vance and Nettie Palmer.