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painter, was born in Pimpama, Queensland, where her family had timber holdings. Her early art studies were under Godfrey Rivers at the Central Technical College, Brisbane, but her main training was at the National Gallery School, Victoria, where she was enrolled in 1905-6 and 1909 under Bernard Hall and Frederick McCubbin. While in Melbourne she also studied watercolour painting with Walter Withers. In 1915 she went to London and, at the end of the war, to Paris, where she studied at Colarossi’s. A very popular studio with Australians, Colarossi’s was where Vida’s Brisbane friend Bessie Gibson had studied under Frances Hodgkins. Vida lived in Montparnasse and must have known Kate O’Connor , Maude Sherwood and Anne Alison Greene , as well as Bessie Gibson, all of whom lived nearby. She also studied with Frances Hodgkins at St Ives, Cornwall, before returning to Australia in 1920. Her only other trip was in 1927 when she remained abroad for eighteen months.

In Australia Lahey regularly exhibited at the Moreton Galleries, Brisbane, and during the 1930s with the Society of Artists, Sydney. She became a member of the Royal Queensland Art Society and the Australian Academy of Art. In 1938 she was included in the British Empire Exhibition in London; in 1945 she received the Society of Artists’ Medal for her services to art.

Lahey’s painting is recognised for its traditional academic qualities and shows very little awareness of the avant-garde movements of her generation. She specialised in still-life, interior and occasional landscape views, all perfectly normal subjects for the 1930s and 1940s. Probably because her art was so acceptable, she was able to encourage much support for the visual arts, especially in Queensland. Her special interest was teaching art to children; she established and taught children’s art classes at the Queensland Art Gallery until 1952; her successor was Margaret Ellen (Madge) McNeil (1904-1995), who painted this portrait of the elderly Lahey.

Vida Lahey also taught adult art classes at the gallery, and much of the fund-raising and early impetus for the Queensland Art Gallery is credited to her and Daphne Mayo . Lahey served on the Art Advisory Committee for the Gallery in 1931-37 and often argued for a proper purchasing policy and a qualified full time director – which occurred only in 1949. The gallery commissioned her to write Art in Queensland 1859-1959 (Brisbane 1959), still a basic text for Queensland art history which includes much useful biographical information. She also began work on the catalogue of the University of Queensland Art Collection. However, probably her main contribution was to encourage excellence and public involvement in the visual arts, especially in Queensland, and to serve as a point of contact between Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Writers:
Underhill, Nancy D. H.
Date written:
1995
Last updated:
2011