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Landmarks: The Landscape Paintings of Doris Lusk

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Landmarks: The Landscape Paintings of Doris Lusk

Exhibition: 6 April - 9 June 1996

Catalogue of an exhibition organized by and held at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, written by Grant Banbury and Lisa Beaven.

Reproduced with the kind co-operation of the artist's family.

 

 

Landmarks: The Landscape Paintings of Doris Lusk

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Exquisite Treasure Revealed

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Canterbury Museum holds two albums compiled by Diamond Harbour artist Margaret Stoddart. The older of the two, containing images featured in this Bulletin, and itself currently exhibited in the Gallery, covers the period 1886–96. The album is handsomely bound in maroon, and stamped M.O.S. in gold. It contains a sort of travelogue by way of black and white photographs set amongst decorative painting, mostly of native flora, with some locality and date information. 

 

Exhibition
In the Vast Emptiness

In the Vast Emptiness

The Canterbury landscape as captured by twentieth century painters.

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Canterbury Landscape by Colin McCahon

Canterbury Landscape by Colin McCahon

In 2014 we purchased an important landscape work by Colin McCahon. Curator Peter Vangioni speaks about this new addition to Christchurch Art Gallery’s collection.

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Mountains, Cass by Rita Angus

Mountains, Cass by Rita Angus

This article first appeared as 'The wonders of waterolours' in The Press on 11 August 2015.

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Canterbury Landscape
Colin McCahon Canterbury Landscape
The immense scale of the Canterbury Plains, stretching away into the distance, is the subject of this painting. Based on aerial photographs of North Canterbury, the perspective, with just a sliver of sky on the horizon, compresses and tilts the landscape into various simplified shapes of paddocks, divided and defined by shelter belts. Colin McCahon’s interest in cubism at the time was spurred by time spent studying under Mary Cockburn Mercer, an elderly Australian artist who had studied with some of the original cubists in Paris in the early twentieth century. When asked in 1976 what effect the flatness of Canterbury had on his painting in the early 1950s, McCahon's reply centred around the division of space: “[T]he simple division is one I’ve used ever since. It was a discovery at the time, it was a real discovery.” ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Notes
100 years of the Cass field station

100 years of the Cass field station

Last weekend the University of Canterbury Biology Department celebrated the 100th anniversary of the field station at Cass with a symposium on Cass followed up with a field trip to the station.

Notes
Wainui - to the west of the long harbour

Wainui - to the west of the long harbour

"I like Wainui, quaint, charming, rather like a Pieter Bruegel subject with the haymaking in progress." Rita Angus to Douglas Lilburn, 1943

Collection
Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula
Doris Lusk Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula
When interviewed in 1987, Doris Lusk recalled her attraction to the Banks Peninsula landscape: '[A]long that top road, the old forests are very, very visible […] those ruinous trees […] in the process of rotting, of becoming derelict logs […] remain as the shell of the trunk which is sort of indestructible […] as if it had been made.' Lusk’s family and others rented a farmhouse above Duvauchelle during the late 1940s and early 1950s, with the surrounding countryside, including the view down into Okains Bay from the summit road, providing the subject matter for many of her paintings at the time. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Kaikoura Country
Olivia Spencer Bower Kaikoura Country
In 1977 Olivia Spencer Bower spoke about visiting and painting at a friend’s farm, Steepdown, the location of this painting, in Kaikōura during the early 1940s: 'You’re aware of the shifts of the hills and how they go into terraces. You can’t help but be aware of it. ‘Steepdown’ is rough country to walk in; when the floods are in you’ve got to get on horses and swim across the river to get out of the place. […] The farm is well named. I used to climb as far as I could to get the view over this country. We used to go for picnics to the top of the hills with the horses.' ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
A Canterbury landscape
Archibald Nicoll A Canterbury landscape
Having lost his leg while fighting on the Somme during World War I, Archibald Nicoll was confined to painting landscapes in close proximity to where he was able to drive. This is why so many of his landscapes have roads as a central motif. Rather than a hindrance, however, Nicoll put his car to good use and revelled in the freedom it offered, driving all over Canterbury to paint. He would often combine painting excursions with family holidays. The scene in this work is thought to be Balcairn Downs inland from the town of Amberley in North Canterbury. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Notes
CASS

CASS

This week 77 years ago Rita Angus visited Cass on a sketching holiday with Louise Henderson and Julia Scarvell that resulted in several paintings including the Christchurch Art Gallery's Cass.

Notes
CASS

CASS

André Hemer's exhibition CASS is well worth a visit if you are near the Christchurch Art Gallery's space above NG on Madras street.

Notes
Another nor’wester descends on Canterbury

Another nor’wester descends on Canterbury

Some people fear them, others revel in the unforgiving dry heat – love them or hate them the legendary Canterbury nor'wester is one of the defining features of this region in the summer months and there is a real doozy blowing outside at the moment.

Notes
Heart in the high country: Austen Deans (1915 - 2011)

Heart in the high country: Austen Deans (1915 - 2011)

For Austen Deans, OBE, painting was an expression of his love of the outdoors and, in particular, the Canterbury high country.

Collection
Hills from Annat
Douglas MacDiarmid Hills from Annat
After a stint at the Wigram Air Force Base in Christchurch with the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War II, Douglas MacDiarmid found the need to get away to the country for a well-earned sketching holiday. It was here that Hills from Annat was completed. He said of this time: 'I had been able to lay my hands on the last covered wagon in the South Island, also to hire a fine white mare. Off we drove in a flourish then for a month, Blanche, Buddy, me. We were headed for the rolling country where the Canterbury Plains are not yet hills finishing as Alps. At no more than a clip-clop pace it is possible to approach with peaceful observation, meditation merging as no motor vehicle will allow.' ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Notes
Sutton high-fives McCahon

Sutton high-fives McCahon

Nothing made it into a W.A. Sutton painting by accident, and the white line that rises diagonally through the sky in Plantation Series II is no exception.

Interview
Talking Bensemann

Talking Bensemann

Leo Bensemann was one of the most respected figures in the Christchurch arts scene, and played a pivotal role in influential arts collective The Group. Always something of an odd-man-out, he produced a large body of work across several different disciplines before his death in 1986. In an attempt to get a fuller picture of the man himself, Gallery director Jenny Harper spoke to two artists who knew him well, John Coley and Quentin MacFarlane.

Artist Profile
Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann (1912–1986) was a pivotal figure bridging the worlds of literature and visual arts – a go-between like no other. Peter Simpson is an authority on this distinctive artist.

Collection
Rakaia Series No. 37
Trevor Moffitt Rakaia Series No. 37
Trevor Moffitt had a deep love for inland Canterbury that was in part fostered by his obsession with fishing. In the mid 1970s he purchased a bach at Lake Clearwater, inland from the Canterbury town of Ashburton. This became his favourite spot to retreat from city life and experience the outdoors. In 1982, after the death of his wife, Alison, Moffitt began the series that this work is from. He said in an interview: 'After Alison died I’d had enough of people, so I went out and painted the Rakaia River series. I had just been emotionally drained. […] The best thing I could do was go off on the weekend and paint the river. I poured all my grief and tears into depicting the waters of the Rakaia.' ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Hills and Plains, Waikari
William Alexander Sutton Hills and Plains, Waikari
The hot, dry nor’west winds that are such a persistent feature in the Canterbury landscape drive some residents to despair, but the conditions were something that Bill Sutton revelled in. He wrote ofhis love for this unique feature of Canterbury: […] especially the skies, because of the föhn winds which come from Australia and behave rather unkindly on the West Coast and then come over to Canterbury and behave much more beneficently over us, blowing hot air which I enjoy enormously. And the clouds which accompany these pleasant physical processes are enchanting in shape. Long lens-shaped cumulus clouds, which always fascinate me because there’s so much freedom of construction among them although they belong to a specific family. I can parallel or relate these shapes to land shapes to shadow shapes, so that it's a splendid motif to seize upon – the shape of the cloud – and echo it through the whole landscape. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
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A Goddess Of Mercy
Rita Angus A Goddess Of Mercy
The Canterbury landscape was violently shaken by the sequence of earthquakes that began in the dead of night on 4 September 2010. Parts of the vast Canterbury Plains, including the reclaimed swampland that Christchurch was built on, were literally ripped apart, while many of the volcanic outcrops and cliff faces on Banks Peninsula shattered and fell. Memories of those scenes provide a stark contrast to the serene, idealised Canterbury landscape watched over here by Rita Angus's A Goddess of Mercy, with its green and golden pastures, ploughed fields and foothills extending to the mountains beyond. Radiating peace, order and oneness with the landscape, it offers a reassuring vision after the uncertainty, stress and loss of living through the earthquakes. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
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Sunset, Craigieburn
Colin S. Lovell-Smith Sunset, Craigieburn
Colin Lovell-Smith often went on painting trips to this area with his wife Rata, who was also a landscape painter. Craigieburn is in the Southern Alps, about 100 kilometres northwest of Christchurch. Although set beside a small riverbed close to the main road, the painting focuses on the steep eroded slopes of the Craigieburn Range. Lovell-Smith has paid close attention to the landform details, capturing the distinctive qualities of the Canterbury mountain region. Shades of ochre are subtly orchestrated with the soft grey of the predominant greywacke rocks. Born in Christchurch, Lovell-Smith studied at the Canterbury College School of Art then worked for his father’s printing business. During World War I Lovell-Smith was with the Royal Engineers on the Balkan Front and was subsequently awarded the Serbian Gold Medal of Merit for his work. On his return to Christchurch in 1919 he taught, first at St Andrew’s College, then at the School of Art, of which he was Director from 1947 until his death.
Collection
Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills
Doris Lusk Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills
Bill Sutton once commented that “on the Canterbury Plains you don’t look up and down but from side to side”, which seems entirely appropriate for this vast landscape painting of the plains by his friend Doris Lusk. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Nor’west
Juliet Peter Nor’west
Juliet Peter said of her peers at Canterbury College School of Art in the 1930s: They were trying to take [their practice] a step forward beyond the art society's concept of landscape. Design came into it. We all wanted to get away from the photographic approach and bring in some personal input. We were getting away from the idea that you had to view landscape as if you were a camera. We were taking the elements and adjusting them towards an individual point of view. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Mackenzie Country
Esther Studholme Hope Mackenzie Country
The viewpoint Esther Hope chose for this work allowed her to show the vast expanse of the Mackenzie Country, which stretches out before the viewer towards the Southern Alps. This region was a favourite subject of Hope’s, one that she returned to throughout her career. She said that “this land is a part of me … I have never regretted my choice of environment [and] have always felt a strong feeling of primitiveness [here].” Hope’s mature style is seen here, with broad wet washes of colour confidently used. Hope was born near Geraldine, South Canterbury. She was first introduced to painting through her mother, Emily Studholme, an accomplished amateur artist. She also took lessons from Edwyn Temple and Margaret Stoddart. In 1912 Hope left New Zealand for England where she enrolled at the Slade School of Art, London. In 1919 she returned to New Zealand, married Henry Norman Hope and settled at the Grampians Station in the Mackenzie Country.
Collection
Dry September
William Alexander Sutton Dry September
This painting is of Bruce Stream in the Bealey region on the way to Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps. It was a special place for Bill Sutton; he knew the landscape well, having visited it regularly in his childhood. And it was here that his ashes were scattered by his close friends after his death in 2000. He once commented: During the Depression an uncle took a job as a roadman at Bealey and my brother and I spent several Christmases with him and Aunt Alice. This gave us an intimate acquaintance with a completely different environment from the city. We came to know the riverbed and the hills and had the occasional trip across the Waimakariri by horse and cart to Greyney’s Creek beyond Klondike Corner. [...] I have enjoyed many visits back to this area and sketched there in watercolours, with a pack of sandwiches and perhaps a couple of beers. ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Canterbury Spring
Leo Bensemann Canterbury Spring
Exhibited at The Group show in 1961, this work by Leo Bensemann was part of a ‘Four Seasons’ suite which also included Autumn, Winter and Summer. It marked a change in his work in that landscapes came to dominate his paintings from this period on. Bensemann has given the landscape a structured composition, with objects outlined in a strong, clean and definite manner. This has similarities with work by other Canterbury landscape painters who shared a concern for painting the unique regional imagery of the Canterbury landscape in a formal simplified manner. Born in Takaka, Bensemann shifted to Nelson with his family in 1920. He moved to Christchurch in 1929 and he worked for an advertising agency. He attended evening classes at the Canterbury College School of Art between 1932 and 1936. It was in 1934 that Bensemann met poet Denis Glover and became involved with the Caxton Press as a typographer, an association he maintained until his retirement in 1978. He was a regular exhibitor with The Group from 1938.
Collection
Plain and Hills
Louise Henderson Plain and Hills
Late in her career Louise Henderson recounted her time in Christchurch during the 1930s, calling Christchurch “a cultured place, dull but sound”. She compared her own working process to that of her contemporary Rita Angus: “I worked on a big area, involving the intellectual process of the work itself, the overall structure and concept. Rita worked in small areas, built up the surface, bit by bit; there are more surface marks in her work.” The two artists were firm friends and often made painting trips together out into the Canterbury landscape in Henderson’s car – their most famous trip was to Cass in 1936, after which Angus painted the exemplary Cass, which is shown to the left of this work. Henderson said of their connection, “It was good to have another artist to talk to. People didn’t approve of woman artists in New Zealand either. I was used to that. It was not new to me because my own mother had never approved.” As with Angus, Henderson’s love of the Canterbury landscape is evident in her paintings. She commented, “I thought the South was very beautiful. I learnt to sleep in my sleeping bag and stay out in the bush at night, under a tree. I enjoyed all that tremendously.” ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Mountains, Cass
Rita Angus Mountains, Cass
“I was glad to see this painting again for a few minutes. […] I was ‘knocked out’ by the clear admission of truth. I am amazed that at one time (years ago), and in about three to four hours, I had the power & courage to paint Cass.” —Rita Angus ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
The Long Lookout
Ivy G Fife The Long Lookout
This prominent headland is the one between Little Akaloa Bay and Raupo Bay on the northeastern coastline of Banks Peninsula. Ivy Fife has created not just an attractive representation of the peninsula landforms, but also an impressive adjustment of form and tone to create a rhythmic unity. The Long Lookout displays Fife's mastery of watercolour painting, with the carefully applied washes capturing the sun-drenched tussock and pasture grasses. Her landscape has the distinct forms characteristic of the Canterbury School of the early 20th century. Fife was born in Christchurch and studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1920 to 1931. In 1936 she became a member of the College staff, teaching landscape painting, a position she held until her retirement in 1959. In 1954 Fife was appointed to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery Advisory Panel. Her work was exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and she was represented in the 1951 Festival of Britain, held in London, in the ‘International Women's Art Club’ exhibition. For the exhibition Picturing the Peninsula (21 April - 22 July 2007), this work was displayed with this label: The Long Lookout / Panau is a prominent headland lying between Little Akaloa and Raupo Bay on the north-eastern coastline of Banks Peninsula. The prominent landform was once the site of a major defensive pā which was able to accommodate a large population if required. Some Peninsula Ngāi Tahu families sheltered here during the kai huanga (eat relation) feud of the 1820s and the pā was again in use when Te Rauparaha sack Onawe pā at Akaroa around 1831. One of Christchurch artist Ivy Fife’s favourite locations on Banks Peninsula was the north eastern bay of Little Akaloa. Fife made many sketching trips to the Bay and also explored neighbouring locations such as the Long Lookout.
Collection
Cass
Rita Angus Cass
In the mid 1940s Rita Angus wrote to her close friend, the composer Douglas Lilburn: 'Recently I have come to realise the importance Cass has come to have in my life.' She treasured this painting and resisted approaches to sell it until she left Christchurch in 1954 at which time she sold it to the Gallery. The painting acted as a visual reminder for the artist of the days she spent painting with Louise Henderson and Julia Scarvell in May 1936. Her fondness for Cass, a small, scenic locality in Canterbury's high country, is also highlighted in another letter to Lilburn: 'I have just finished reading through a story I wrote of Cass, descriptions have taken me back to those days of clear blue green skies, sun setting behind the dark hills, cold shadows, thin smoke from the chimney ascending in a straight line. They were happy days, I long for a later return into the mountains. How little did I think then, or foresee my life these last ten years, or that Cass would come to have any meaning to the painter.' Angus loved that 'the landscape becomes alive at twilight, and I expect the train to come in.' ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Hawkins
Rata Lovell-Smith Hawkins
By the early 1930s Rata Lovell-Smith was highly regarded for her paintings of the Canterbury landscape. One Christchurch reviewer in 1933 glowingly commented on her work: 'Of the painters who direct their attention towards the essential characteristics of New Zealand scenery […] Mrs Lovell-Smith makes an extremely direct statement of her subject. She paints with a large full brush in a series of broad planes. There is nothing 'bitty' about her work. This, perhaps, is its greatest virtue, a virtue that cannot be too highly praised. She glories in the colour contrasts of the New Zealand landscape. […] There are no subtleties but a series of vivid and simplified impressions of her native country. Whereas many pictures by [other] exhibitors […] might have been painted in other countries, there can never be any doubt about the locality of Mrs Lovell- Smith's landscapes. It is as though she had never got over her first impression of violent tone and colour contrasts, and in a state of beatific astonishment had set herself to establish that impression at the expense of anything that tended to modify it.' ####[In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016](https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/exhibitions/in-the-vast-emptiness)
Collection
Summer Kowai, 1934
Cedric Savage Summer Kowai, 1934
Kowai Bush is a farming area in the foothills of Central Canterbury, where typically the summers are very hot and dry. Like other Canterbury landscape artists of the 1930s, Cedric Savage was interested in recording the unique features of the Canterbury region. He was essentially a plein air (outdoors) artist concerned with painting directly from nature but in Summer, Kowai he has worked in a careful manner, keeping control over the application of paint. Born in Christchurch, Savage studied at the Canterbury College School of Art. He later studied with Sydney Lough Thompson (1877-1973) and Archibald Nicoll (1886 - 1953). After travelling, he returned to New Zealand in 1933, settling in Christchurch where he became vice-president of the New Zealand Society of Artists. Savage’s eyes were injured during World War II and for the rest of his life he could only paint outdoors. Although he won the Kelliher Art Award in 1962, Savage felt unappreciated in New Zealand and spent many years living away from the country, finally settling in Greece.