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Emerald Arches, Negombo, Ceylon

35 x 45 cm
Oil on canvas
Signed, 1934

Alfred Coffey

Alfred Roland Coffey (1869-1950) was a painter and etcher. Born in Limerick, Ireland, he went to Australia with his parents at the age of four and studied at St Aloysius College and the Royal Art Society School in Sydney. Coffey later taught at the University of Sydney and the East Sydney Technical College. In 1900 he was the official Australian representative at the International Art Congress at Dresden. A lifelong Sydneysider, he exhibited regularly with Royal Art Society and was able to give up teaching and pursue painting full-time by 1921. He probably became the first Australian artist to visit and paint in the Dutch East Indies, travelling to Borneo, Java, Bali and the Celebes where he was interested in the local cultures. He travelled several times to Europe and throughout the Pacific and visited Ceylon in 1934. During his six month stay in the island, Coffey travelled more than 3,000 miles painting the scenery of the coast and the interior, producing an astounding 140 oil paintings of Ceylon landscapes.

“Despite its vivid colouring, Ceylon has not the wonderfully delicate light and colour that are found in Australian landscape. But there is less monotony than in Australia. Soaring mountain peaks, the vivid greens of tropical vegetation, and quaint native villages give a contrast lacking in the general sameness of Australian towns with their weatherboard houses and iron roofs.”

Alfred R. Coffey
Sydney Morning Herald, 1934