B.

A working holiday to Cass

Behind the scenes

Louise Henderson (1902-1994), whose birthday it is today, spent ten days at Cass with fellow artists Rita Angus and Julia Scarvell in May 1936.

You can see Henderson's, Angus's (using her married name Cook) and Scarvell's entry at the bottom of this page of the Cass Hut's visitor's book. Ten days drawing and painting in the mountains: not a bad break from the trappings of Christchurch and in May the air would certainly have been crisp and clear, a feature which comes through in both Angus's and Henderson's Cass works.

Cover of the Canterbury College Mountain Biological Station, Cass visitors book.

Cover of the Canterbury College Mountain Biological Station, Cass visitors book.

The trip inspired one of New Zealand's best known paintings, Rita Angus's Cass but Henderson also produced several paintings of Cass and the surrounding landscape, many of which are yet to be located. In the 1936 Group Show (you can download the catalogue here [PDF: 2MB]), Henderson exhibited no fewer than five paintings of Cass including one of the Cass railway station; where is it today? It would be amazing to compare this to Angus's work. The Christchurch Art Gallery does own one of Henderson's Cass paintings, Plains and Hills, which is strikingly similar to Angus's style with the crisp portrayal of tussock, pine trees and mountain slopes - a landscape that has been invaded by the modern era with the presence of power poles. These also make an appearence in Angus's Cass

Image
Louise Henderson Plain and Hills 1936. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, purchased 2003

Louise Henderson Plain and Hills 1936. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, purchased 2003

Related

Exhibition
He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land

He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land

Canterbury modernist landscape painting from the collections of Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery, poignantly revised from within a Kāi Tahu perspective

Exhibition
In the Vast Emptiness

In the Vast Emptiness

The Canterbury landscape as captured by twentieth century painters.

Collection
Cass
Rita Angus Cass

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
Plain and Hills
Louise Henderson Plain and Hills

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)