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T Shirt Michael O'Connell

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Michael O’Connell was born in 1898 in Dalton-in- Furness, Lancashire, Great Britain. He arrived in Australia in 1920 at the end of the First World War, initially working as a photographer and painter. He began producing printed fabrics in 1929. Working with his wife Ella, also an embroiderer and printmaker, O’Connell began producing blockprinted fabrics for furnishings and fashion garments.

Several Melbourne department stores and specialised shops sold their fabrics, which were recognised for their individuality and modernity. Colourfully executed early designs featured stylised nightclub, dancing and party scenes, while later work emphasised Australian flora and fauna, and adapted Aboriginal motifs in what were described at the time as “bush colours”.

In 1937 O’Connell and his wife established Mael Fabrics, so-called for the combination of their two first names.

Michael O’Connell (designer)
English 1898–1976, worked
in Australia 1921–37
Mael Fabrics, London
(manufacturer)
English est. 1937
Bellagio c. 1938
stencil, linocut, screenprint,
block printed linen
126.0 x 185.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria,
Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Sylvia Dillon-
Gibbons, 1984
© Michael O’Connell/DACS,
London. Licensed by VISCOPY,
Australia