Florence Akins, an artist with a very long association with Canterbury art, passed away peacefully on 18 October, aged 106.
Born in Christchurch in 1906, Florence graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Canterbury College School of Art in 1931 and continued her association with the school as a teacher through to 1969 when she retired. She was highly regarded for her metalwork and we were lucky enough to have her exquisite coffee pot (c.1933) included in the exhibition Simplicity and Splendour: The Canterbury Arts and Crafts Movement from 1882 (collection of Te Papa) here at Christchurch Art Gallery back in 2004. Florence was a living link to a previous generation of New Zealand artists - among her contemporaries were Rita Angus and Leo Bensemann. She was very close to Francis Shurrock but her greatest friendship was with her fellow artist and lifelong friend, Chrystabel Aitken.
In 1997 Florence presented the Gallery with nine linocuts and etchings from the 1930s and 1940s by herself, Bill Sutton, Frances Shurrock and Alexander McLintock. They were a very welcome addition to our New Zealand print collection.
Florence lived a very long and very productive life and as her obituary noted the time has come for her to lay down her paint brush and palette and rest in peace.
The linocut was a popular medium in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. At this time it was also used by a number of Canterbury artists, including Florence Akins, who taught linocut at the Canterbury College School of Art. In The Metalworker Akins uses the stark contrasts of black and white to convey the fall of light on the figure. The subject is possibly one of her students. Akins was born in Christchurch and studied at the Canterbury College School of Art under Francis Shurrock and James Johnstone during the 1920s. She had a long association with the school; appointed to a part-time teaching position in 1927, she taught there until the end of 1969. Akins has worked with a wide range of media, including fibre arts such as embroidery, tapestry and weaving.