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Katherine Emily Hope (1940–1979)

by Arthur L. Burns

Emily Hope, the gifted artist, died in Melbourne on August 13 after a long and severe illness.

Miss Hope was the only daughter of Professor and Mrs A. D. Hope.

The following tribute is by Professor A. L. Burns, of the centre for foreign politics in the ANU Research School of Social Sciences.

Though dying in her thirties, Emily Hope was already a skilled and recognised painter, sculptor and jewel-worker. Growing up among visionaries, her vision was utterly her own. What she learnt of traditions and skills in New Guinea, Bali, the Himalayas, Afghanistan and Western Europe was, as it were, planted out in a spacious but single garden.

Her reading in the aesthetic expression of religions, especially in their earlier manifestations was, though unpredictable, various, sharp and deep: above all, it revealed itself in her sculpture and painting.

Early in her teens, she painted murals in the hall of St Columba's, Braddon, from the legends of that Saint's life by St Andamnan. In them, her peculiar vision already made the pictures. Quite untrained observers can receive it from those first, as clearly as from her highly developed last works.

A little of its quality maybe imagined from her 12 taller-than-life Apostles (St Thomas of India is dark, and dances Indian-style) which can be uncovered above the stalls behind the pasilican altar of the previously Liberal Catholic church in Carlton, Melbourne; from a startling and persuasive First Pentecost; and, quite, as well, from a pair of dancing-girls who almost move.

Her splendid jewellery is worn by hundreds and hundreds in this country. Other fortunates own her hand-sized birds and beasts, in silver and with gemstones often the work of her mother, Penelope. Each of those creatures lives to the touch in (William Blake) its "holy emanation". But she was by no means a miniaturist: some of her wall-length black-and-whites should have become mural reliefs.

Last year, after-effects of treatment for her illness began to limit, and at last ended, the use of her right hand. She taught herself to paint and draw, at least as well, with her left. In the phrase of her death-notice in The Canberra Times, "Brave as a lion".

Recently her left hand also had been failing. But she lived to see a pile of copies of her lavish retelling and colour-illustrating of Indra's legend and she had completed her version of the early-medieval tale of Pope Joan, and until a few weeks ago was colouring the illustrations for that. Always, the bird and beast and human creatures were peopling and being transfigured within her vision.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Arthur L. Burns, 'Hope, Katherine Emily (1940–1979)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

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