Ola (Carola) Cohn MBE

Talented artist and professional sculptor Ola Cohn left a lasting impression on Victoria's art world.

Honour Roll

Ola Cohn left a remarkable gift to Victoria in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens. 'The Fairies' Tree' continues to enchant generations of children who visit the gardens. Ola's other works in bronze, wood, terracotta and freestone are found in many state and provincial galleries throughout Australia. Large freestone works include Adelaide's Pioneer Woman and Hobart Hospital's Science and Humanity and her bronze, Head of a Virgin is displayed in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Despite being drawn to works of religion and mysticism, success came with her avant-garde Modernism style which was ridiculed by the media. She was the first of the 'Moderns' in Australia. Born in Bendigo, Ola developed her interest in art at an early age and went on to graduate as an Associate of the Royal College of Art in London, exhibiting in London and Paris.

Upon returning to Melbourne, Ola used her prestige to tirelessly support and promote art and artists, particularly the women artists of early twentieth century Victoria. Ola inspired female artists and influenced the subject matter of other sculptors away from works of triumphant men with warlike stances to more general topics of wide appeal.

Her East Melbourne property was a meeting place for women artists and Melbourne's cultural hub for almost 30 years. Ola established the Sculptors Society of Melbourne and was President of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors from 1948 to 1964. She arranged competitions for public memorials and statues, and hosted charity events and exhibitions at her property.

During her lifetime she was a stalwart for many charities including the Red Cross, wartime charities and animal charities, as well as giving wide support to other committees. Ola bequeathed her East Melbourne property and a collection of her works and other artefacts to the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) for the advancement of female artists and sculptors. Today her home is known as the "Ola Cohn Centre for the Arts". Ola was posthumously appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1965, for services to art and sculpture.