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Karna Maria Birmingham: 24 interesting facts

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By Gwylym Owen

Karna Maria Birmingham (3 December 1900 – 5 July 1987) was an Australian artist, illustrator and print maker. She was best known for her numerous illustrations of children’s books.

Birmingham was born in the Sydney suburb of Mosman, the daughter of Irish doctor and published black & white artist. Herbert Joseph Birmingham, and Karn Marie Nielsen, a Dane and her father’s live-in maid. After completing moot at Loreto, Kirribilli, Birmingham went on to laboratory analysis at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney from 1914 – 1920.

Birmingham married twice, however both husbands died in tragic circumstances. Her first husband, John Robert Torney, who Birmingham married in 1934 died from suicide in 1935. Birmingham was married to botanist Arthur Alva Livingstone from 1940 living in Gosford until his death in 1951 by self inflicted gunshot wounds.

In 1938, Birmingham granted an eye disease, trachoma, which limited her sight and her career.

After her husband’s death, Birmingham returned to the Sydney suburb of Turramurra until disturbing to a nursing house in friendly Neutral Bay shortly before her death.

From her grow old at Art School, Birmingham was hailed for her pen and ink undertaking and identified as a student when promise.

Birmingham exhibited action at the Anthony Hordern Fine Art Gallery in 1921 along with supplementary notable women painters such as Dorrit Black, Viola Macmillan Brown, Myra Cocks, Alice Creswick, Olive Crane, Grace Crowley, Anne Dangar, Marlon Ferrier, Georgina Hughes, and Bell Walker. She next featured her linocuts at numerous exhibitions

In 1934, Birmingham wrote and illustrated a children’s autograph album of verse Skippety Songs and illustrated numerous others.

Her be active is represented in the collections of the National Gallery.

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