WHAT'S ON

The Forgotten Works of Pixie O'Harris on display in Taree

Magical: 'Goodnight' by Pixie O'Harris, 1957, oil on board. Photo provided.
Magical: 'Goodnight' by Pixie O'Harris, 1957, oil on board. Photo provided.

In 1957 one of Australia's most loved and iconic storytellers and illustrators, Pixie O'Harris, created works for Taree's Manning Hospital to help brighten the lives of children on the children's ward.

Now the enchanting collection of works, only found again in the last two years, will be on exhibition at Manning Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) from Thursday, January 23.

Many locals remember these incredible pieces that adorned the walls of the hospital, thanks to the Manning Base Hospital Ladies Auxiliary (the Pink Ladies), who commissioned the 25 works.

Pixie O'Harris was an experienced muralist at the time, having completed similar artworks at other hospitals across New South Wales.

Pixie's inspiration for the murals came after the birth of her third child, in 1939, when she had been dispirited by the bleakness of the hospital walls.

One of the pixie doors hidden in Fotheringham Park.

One of the pixie doors hidden in Fotheringham Park.

Finding the works was 'pixie magic'

A few years ago interest was rekindled in the paintings when Janine Roberts and Penny Teerman of MidCoast Stories rediscovered the works.

"Penny had this little article from 2008 saying the hospital had Pixie O'Harris paintings," Janine explained.

"So we contacted the hospital and they didn't really know where they were, but they knew they had some in storage. They invited us up and we found a few paintings behind filing cabinets, and we were missing quite a number.

"There are 25, we found eight up in the storage office. We found others on the walls.

When I asked them where they came from no-one could tell me where they had been. It's a mystery! I just say it's a bit of pixie magic, pixie dust.

Janine Roberts

"When I went up to pick up the ones that were on the walls, I found that in the office there were a whole bunch of other paintings there, which were the missing ones.

"When I asked them where they came from no-one could tell me where they had been. It's a mystery! I just say it's a bit of pixie magic, pixie dust," Janine said.

Collaboration

Eight of the 25 paintings Manning Hospital owns were done by Pixie's brother, Olaf Harris.

"They were the boy ones!" Janine said.

The exhibition includes the complete Manning Hospital collection of the Pixie O'Harris and Olaf Harris paintings, along with additional works from Fairfield Hospital which has generously supported the project.

One of the pixie doors in Fotheringham Park. Photo: Janine Roberts

One of the pixie doors in Fotheringham Park. Photo: Janine Roberts

In the lead up to the exhibition Janine Roberts has had local artists (some of them children) create 'pixie doors' which are hidden in Fotheringham Park and in Victoria Street for children to find.

Taree Library has also come to the party and children can find more pixie doors there, plus some fairytales and some of Pixie O'Harris's books borrowed from the Taree Literary Institute for Taree Library to display.

Magical exhibition opening

The official opening of The Forgotten Works of Pixie O'Harris exhibition is on Saturday, January 25 at 2pm.

Special guests for the opening are Pixie O'Harris's family members who will have travelled from all over Australia to attend.

Pixie's daughter Halcyon Evans, now in her late 80s, will open the exhibition alongside the hospital Pink Ladies.

Entry to the exhibition is free. The exhibition runs to March 8.

Manning Regional Art Gallery is located in Macquarie Street, Taree and opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sunday 1pm to 4pm.