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

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

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

Image

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 Waiwhetu 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

'The word for a pass or saddle in Māori is nonoti or noti; Noti Raureka is the Browning Pass, not that far from Cass, which is closer in proximity to Arthur’s Pass. There’s a story about a woman named Raureka of the Ngāti Wairaki tribe on the West Coast. Raureka travelled to the east coast carrying a piece of pounamu [greenstone], which is a traditional story of how the eastern migrants found out about pounamu. I often doubt that explanation. By the seventeenth century, when Kāi Tahu were coming here, they knew about pounamu but not of the routes required to reach it. Finding a route to the West Coast was important. The man who becomes significant in that story is Te Rakitāmau, who features in the traditional accounts of the routes across the Alps. In later years, the Noti Raureka route was reserved for war parties and for freighting pounamu back to Kaiapoi. The Lewis Pass was preferred because it’s an easier walk with freight, and Browning is quite stiff.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Plain and Hills
Louise Henderson Plain and Hills

Mystery still shrouds the exact location shown in this work by Louise Henderson, but the vista, as well as the work’s date, make a convincing argument for it being painted on the same inland venture with fellow artists Julia Scarvell and Rita Angus in 1936, when Angus painted Cass.

'Those passes and those routes – Noti Raureka [the Browning Pass], Tiori Pātea [Haast Pass] – they were 
all done and opened up with Māori guides, even though they’ve been named by Pākehā surveyors since.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)