Former Goulburn artist rediscovered

A chance finding of a name on a Goulburn electoral roll, while she was researching the Great Strike of 1917, led local woman Margaret Kearns to find a lost local treasure. 

That treasure was Ethel Clara Liggins, an artist who lived and worked in Goulburn during the first half of the 20th century.  

From 1912 to 1927, Ethel Clara Liggins had an art studio in Auburn St where she taught painting, drawing and craft.

She also ran a successful dress shop, selling high-end fashions, furs and expensive hand-crafted jewellery. 

Ms Kearns was intrigued to find a woman in Goulburn earning her living as an artist on the electoral roll in 1913. It started a bit of an obsession for her to find out more about Ethel.

The result of her research is an illustrated biography entitled Coming Home to Goulburn – Celebrating the Life and Art of Ethel Clara Liggins that is being launched in Goulburn on February 24. 

This well-researched book not only tells the fascinating story of this remarkable woman, but also contains some wonderful early photographs of Goulburn and surrounds. Many of these came from Ethel’s husband, photographer Jim Brown.

There is also a selection of Ethel’s artworks in the book. 

“I think she was remarkable woman. She reinvented herself constantly,” Ms Kearns said. 

“She was a woman ahead of her time. She was an astute, successful businesswoman, strong, determined and independent, buying and selling property in her own name. She always kept a clear sense of her own identity, using her maiden name in her business dealings and to sign her artwork.”

Ethel died in Goulburn in 1951, aged 65. 

“I am so very glad she came home to Goulburn for otherwise I would never have had the privilege and joy of getting to know her,” Ms Kearns said.

“In my dedication of this book to Ethel, I noted that all artists want their work to be noticed, acknowledged, recorded and remembered. This process has begun. There is still much to learn.”  

A book launch and exhibition opening will be held at 2pm on Sunday, February 25 at Gallery on Track. 

It will be officially opened by former NSW Education Minister Rodney Cavalier AO.

“I have eight of her paintings that came from Tasmania - via her nephew - Terry Liggins,” Ms Kearns said. 

“He has provided me with much information and photos and I am indebted to him.” 

Ms Kearns will also have information about  Ethel Clara Liggins as part of the Living History Festival, from March 9 - 12 in Goulburn. 

OUTDOORS: Ethel Clara Liggins on one of her plein air painting excusions somewhere near Goulburn. Photos Jim Brown. Supplied by Margaret Kearns.

OUTDOORS: Ethel Clara Liggins on one of her plein air painting excusions somewhere near Goulburn. Photos Jim Brown. Supplied by Margaret Kearns.

REDISCOVERED: Ethel Clara Liggins conducting an art class in the early 20th century. She set up a studio in Auburn Street, where she taught painting, drawing and craft.

REDISCOVERED: Ethel Clara Liggins conducting an art class in the early 20th century. She set up a studio in Auburn Street, where she taught painting, drawing and craft.