“I can only assume that some people are afraid of make-believe. Children aren’t.” 1
In 1957, renowned Australian illustrator and author, Pixie O’Harris, painted a series of 25 murals for the Children’s Ward of the Manning River District Hospital in Taree. The paintings (measuring around 1.5 m x 1 m) depict scenes from children’s stories including Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and Robin Hood.2 It was all part of a 20 year campaign to brighten over 50 children’s wards in NSW hospitals. Pixie was inspired to do this after giving birth to her third child and spending two long spells in hospital herself looking at blank walls. The murals for Taree were painted with her brother Olaf, another talented artist.3 Pixie and Olaf both attended the opening of the hospital 17 September 1957.4
The Taree community raised £2000 through the Hospital Auxilliary (now called the Pink Ladies) to commission the beautiful murals.5 While many of the paintings in other hospitals have been destroyed through demolition or re-decoration, the Taree paintings survive because they were painted on wooden boards rather than the walls themselves.6 Hidden in storage for many years there is a renewed interest in this style of painting that may delight a new generation of children.
1Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 September 1978.
2 Northern Champion, 20 September 1957.
3 Pixie O’Harris, Was it yesterday? The autobiography of Pixie O’Harris. (Sydney: Rigby Publishers, 1983).
4 Northern Champion, 20 September 1957.
5 Northern Champion, 26 March 1954.
6 Pixie O’Harris, Was it yesterday? The autobiography of Pixie O’Harris. (Sydney: Rigby Publishers, 1983).
7 Northern Champion, 20 September 1957.