Friday, 26 August 2022
Written by Jock O'Keefe (OX 1959)

Xavier, like most schools has had its fair share of students who spent idle moments, often in class, drawing cartoons of teachers and famous people while the teacher droned on incessantly. These budding creative types are best described as doodlers.

In the very early 1900's a student Colin Cuthbert Orr Colahan crossed over from CBC, St Kilda to Xavier. Colin came from good stock; his father was a retired surgeon in the British Army so it was only right Colin studied hard and enrolled in medicine at Melbourne Uni (1921).

As a side hustle in his late teens, brim full of Irish wit, his pen and ink cartoons graced the pages of The Xaverian and on a broader canvas The Bulletin magazine.

Colin was more interested in political cartooning than medicine, so he quit med to attend painting and drawing classes at the National Gallery. Curious to explore his chosen art expression Colin enrolled under the wing of Max Meldrum and learnt tonal realism. Colin's work was included in an exhibition at the Atheneum Gallery, Melbourne in 1919.

Fast forward to 1921, Colin married, had a son and in 1923 they set their sights on Europe and Spain where he studied and had showings in London and Paris.

Our schoolboy Doodler had made the big time in the fiercely competitive international art world. He returned to Melbourne,  romanced 'live art' models and remarried.

Commissions took him back to London (1935) to study and paint notables like George Bernard Shaw. Colin was of the marrying kind and took his third wife (1939).

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra appointed Colin an official war correspondent (1942) and some of his work still hangs in Canberra.

He moved to Italy in 1958, remarried for fourth time and began learning sculpture resulting in many commissions including work still exhibited in State Galleries in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. 

Colin died 1987, aged 90. His funeral was in Ventimiglia, Italy.