The Gallery's Watercolour Collection had modest beginnings, but over the past 70 years it has grown steadily by gift and purchase and, of all the Collections, still maintains a largely traditional emphasis. When the Gallery opened in June 1932, just 28 of the 128 paintings on display were watercolours and, of these, 11 were by British artists and 17 by New Zealanders. Among the mostly nineteenth century British watercolours were those by Helen Allingham, Edgar Bundy, Matthew Hale, Laura Knight, William Lee Hankey and Ernest Waterlow. In contrast, the New Zealand watercolours were by mostly contemporary or early twentieth century artists and included works by James Cook, Olivia Spencer Bower, Margaret Stoddart, Maude Sherwood, Eleanor Hughes and Alfred Walsh. The foundation Watercolour Collection included two paintings of larger than usual dimensions. William Lee Hankey's We've been in the Meadows all day (1184 x 878mm) and Charles N. Worsley's Mount Sefton (996 x 1105mm) are still greater in scale than any other work in the Watercolour Collection.
Later in 1932, a further seven watercolours were added as part of the James Jamieson Bequest, which included a work by Australian artist Hans Heysen and expatriate Owen Merton. Throughout the 1930s and 40s no purchases were made and the growth of the Watercolour Collection depended on gifts and bequests, such as the Robert Bell Bequest of 1943, which gave the Gallery a work by Henry S. Tuke and Sunlit Estuary (1897) by James Nairn. However in 1949, with a Picture Purchase fund having been established, there was the greater opportunity to begin to structure the Collection. The first watercolours purchased through this fund were West Coast Wellington by Nugent Welch and Wellington Coast by Thomas A. McCormack. These purchases were made at a time when the acquisition of the most celebrated watercolour in the Gallery's history, Frances Hodgkins' Pleasure Garden, was being hotly debated. It was not until 1951 that the work would be accepted into the Collection.
In that year, the Gallery purchased two watercolours by Eric Lee-Johnson and through the remainder of the 1950s and most of the 1960s, watercolours by other New Zealand artists were added, including works by Juliet Peter, Esther Hope and Russell Clark, whose work The Gathering was an important purchase in 1958. Gifts and bequests of watercolours were also accepted during the 1950s and 1960s. Most of these were by British artists, among them George Cattermole, Charles Dixon, Samuel Prout and John Nash. Perhaps the most important gift of that period was the gouache Farmyard by Frances Hodgkins, which was presented in 1964 by the Contemporary Art Society of London.
With the implementation of a collection policy in the 1970s, attempts were made to fill gaps in the Watercolour Collection and works by a number of colonial artists including William Fox, John Kinder, John Barr Clarke Hoyte and John Gully, as well as contemporary practitioners in the watercolour medium such as W. A. Sutton. Olivia Spencer Bower, Gretchen Albrecht and Rosemary Campbell were sought and acquired. From the 1980s until the present this policy has continued and attempts have been made to strengthen the representation of artists already featured in the Watercolour Collection and to introduce others who have hitherto been unrepresented. Works by artists such as Nicholas Chevalier, John Kinder, M. T. Woollaston, James Fitzgerald, R. A. Oliver and Rita Angus are just six of a large number that have been added in recent years.
In 1998, the Gallery was given the opportunity to purchase 20 watercolours by Olivia Spencer Bower from the Olivia Spencer Bower Foundation and, since then, the Foundation has generously archived several hundred further watercolours for the future benefit of researchers on this artist. Similarly, with the W. A. Sutton bequest in 2000, the Gallery received a number of watercolours by other artists that had been in Sutton's private collection. This gift was the culmination of ongoing generosity by an artist who stands as one of Canterbury's foremost watercolourists. Other gifts by Sutton included 116 works from his magnum opus in the watercolour medium, made in Italy during 1973 and 1974. In 2002, although the Watercolour Collection is still not large in comparison to other collection areas and traditional practitioners of the medium are still collected, there is now a resolve to focus also on works by contemporary New Zealand watercolour artists.
Treasury: A Generous Legacy
Stunning proof of the impact of generosity on the Christchurch collection.
Pressed Letters: Fine Printing in New Zealand Since 1975
An exhibition presenting some of the finest examples of letterpress printing produced in New Zealand from 1975 to the present.
This group of Māori, of the Tuhoe tribe, have gathered for a tangi (funeral). In 1949 Russell Clark first travelled north to the Urewera region looking for material to illustrate the Primary School bulletin. He made many visits to the area in the 1950s, developing a strong empathy with its Tuhoe inhabitants. The drawing contains individual portraits, yet this is also a portrait of a people who are moving as a single entity, with their shared collective ancestry and experience. Clark was born in Christchurch and studied at Canterbury College School of Art. In 1929 he moved to Dunedin, working as a commercial artist for publishers John McIndoe. Clark moved to Wellington in 1938 and continued to work as a commercial artist but also began to exhibit at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. In 1939 he began illustrating for the New Zealand Listener, which he continued to do until 1962. After his war service, Clark returned to Christchurch and a position as lecturer at Canterbury College School of Art.
Mount Sefton lies in the Mount Cook region of the Southern Alps, and Foliage Hill is a short walk from the Mount Cook village where Charles Worsley would have stayed while visiting the region in 1902. The immense scale of this painting shows Worsley’s technical virtuosity with his favourite medium of watercolour. His success was marked in 1923 when Queen Mary bought one of his watercolours for the Royal Collection. Born in Devon, Worsley studied art in London, Antwerp and Paris. He settled in London and began exhibiting at the Royal Institute for British Artists in 1887, then at the Royal Academy in 1889. His wife Beatrice suffered from asthma so in 1896 they left England, arriving in New Zealand in 1898. They lived in a number of places, including Christchurch, before returning to Britain in 1920.
The large rock is Wairaka, south of Pukerua Bay. Kapiti Island can be seen on the horizon.
Farmyards were a constant source of imagery throughout Hodgkins’s career. This is one of several farmyard paintings she completed around 1940 with a central motif of wagon wheels. In ‘Farmyard’ the spokes of the two wheels stand out starkly against a muted background. The wheels take on an almost anthropomorphic quality, resembling two intimidating eyes staring out at the viewer. As is typical of her late period, Hodgkins’s treatment of the subject is loose and lyrical, with highly simplified forms used to represent the houses and church in the background. (Brought to Light, November 2009)
This work was painted during a sketching trip to Bridgnorth, Shropshire in the summer of 1932. Its lively watercolour style and subject matter express Hodgkins’s characteristic interest in capturing the fleeting sensations of a moment.
Following her death in England, Pleasure Garden was one of six works by Hodgkins brought to Christchurch in 1948 at the request of the Canterbury Society of Arts. When the Society’s purchasing committee rejected the selection, a group of independent art supporters raised the purchase price and offered it to the city’s gallery, whose refusal generated metres of newspaper column displeasure and debate. In 1951 their persistence finally paid off.
(Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
In 1904 leading English watercolourist William Lee-Hankey built a house at Le Touquet, northern France, and acquired a studio at nearby Étaples, which was then a thriving artist colony filled with British, American and Australasian artists. Inspired by the work of French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, and the aesthetic potential of the region’s inhabitants, he painted industriously – rustic market scenes, workers and paupers, women and children – in a bold, individualistic style. This work was first shown in Lee-Hankey’s 1906 solo exhibition in London. An article on the artist published at this time applauded how strongly he felt ‘both the picturesqueness and the pathos of the peasant’s struggle for existence’, finding ‘in the simplicity and unaffected naturalism of the workers in the fields a degree of poetic suggestion which is discoverable nowhere else.’ Further nailing the attractions of France, the review went on to note that ‘The British peasants have lost the character which made them formerly worthy of the artist’s attention’.
(The Weight of Sunlight, 16 September 2017 - 16 September 2018)
Exquisite Treasure Revealed
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.
This article first appeared as 'Stoddart: an artist for all seasons' in The Press on 17 November 2015.
The dazzling watercolours of an adventurous and trailblazing Canterbury artist.
This article first appeared as 'Otira colour captured in all its summer glory' in The Press on 28 February 2014.
This article first appeared as 'Stoddart's summer' in The Press on 15 February 2013.
While the Gallery remains closed to the public the permanent collection continues to grow with several generous gifts and bequests being received recently.
The ruins of Diamond Harbour's Godley House may have finally been removed but the stunning sparkling views out across Lyttelton Harbour remain.
Margaret Stoddart was born on this day in 1865 at Diamond Harbour. Here she is in 1909:
The Press announced today that another iconic Banks Peninsula building is to be demolished, Godley House at Diamond Harbour.
W.A. Sutton: Watercolours of Italy
An exhibition featuring a selection of works from Bill Sutton's 1973–4 Italian sojourn, highlighting his exquisite skill as a draughtsman and watercolourist.
Picturing the Peninsula
A selection of works by some of New Zealand’s most significant historical and contemporary artists responding to the unique landscapes of Banks Peninsula Te Pataka o Rakaihautu.
Margaret Stoddart worked exclusively as a watercolourist and painted plein-air landscapes from early in her career. Her work developed towards an impressionistic style while she was based in Europe between 1898 and 1906. At this time she began exploring the various atmosphericeffects experienced while painting plein-air, as seen in Camiers, France, where Stoddart uses very wet washes of colour to capture the hazy conditions of the scene.
On her return from Europe in 1907, Margaret Stoddart lived in Godley House with her mother and sister and remained there until the family’s Diamond Harbour estate was sold off in 1913. The family were keen gardeners, as can be seen by the charming cottage garden. This is one of a number of paintings Stoddart did in Diamond Harbour and shows the style she had developed during her time in Europe. The expressive opaque watercolour treatment is combined with fine fluid washes applied in a quick and direct manner, out of doors before the subject. Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, Christchurch, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. She travelled to Europe in 1898.
Margaret Stoddart painted many scenes of the Southern Alps, particularly in the Mount Cook National Park region in South Canterbury. Indeed, the lilies featured here are known as ‘Mount Cook’ lilies.
By the time she painted this work, Stoddart was widely recognised as the leading New Zealand flower painter of the time. The immediacy of the detail suggests that she did at least the preliminary work on site, rather than in the studio. The watercolour washes have the Impressionistic style that became Stoddart’s hallmark.
Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, on Banks Peninsula, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. After living in England for several years, Stoddart returned to New Zealand in 1907 and settled in Diamond Harbour.
For the exhibition I See Red (5 December 2007 - 23 November 2008) this work was displayed with the following label: ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ goes the old Scottish song. Red roses are a well-known symbol for true love. Thank Robbie Burns for the song, and Margaret Stoddart for this bowl of overflowing roses, where the red is the red of a living, beating heart, a red that unfolds into full bloom, promising love that will last.
Margaret Stoddart first made the trip along the West Coast Road over Arthur’s Pass and through the Otira Gorge in April 1896, travelling in a hired wagon with several companions. Around 1927 Stoddart completed several watercolours of the gorge including An Otira Stream (also known as Mountain rata). In this work the artist combines her interest in flower painting with landscape to complete a vibrant vision of southern rata in full bloom amongst the rugged Otira terrain. In the summer months of January and February the mountain slopes of the Otira Gorge come alive with the crimson flowers of southern rata.
It is thought this nuggetty watercolour painting was completed shortly after Margaret Stoddart’s return to New Zealand from an extended period studying and painting in Europe. Acrid smoke billows upwards as the dense native bush, presumably being cleared for agricultural purposes, is consumed by fire. This is a tough, poignant and unusual subject for Stoddart – far removed from the rather more subdued still-life subjects for which she became so highly regarded. Stoddart’s complete mastery with watercolour is seen in her beautiful handling and contrasting of washes of colour, from the dense darks of the bush to the white smoke. (March 2018)
For the exhibition Picturing the Peninsula (21 April - 22 July 2007), this work was displayed with this label:
Diamond Harbour lies on the South side of Lyttelton harbour across from the town of Lyttelton between Purau Bay and Charteris Bay. It was named by the artist’s father, Mark Stoddart, from “the glitter of the sun-track on the water, always very noticeable from that side of the harbour.” This view chosen by Margaret Stoddart looks out across Diamond Harbour from above the wharf and is in the artist’s mature style being completed soon after her return home in 1907 after studying art abroad.
Stoddart was born and grew up in Diamond Harbour where her father had settled in 1851. She regularly painted in the region and often incorporated flowers into the landscape such as the blossoms seen in this work.
Margaret Stoddart’s painting style altered dramatically during the period she spent in Britain between 1898 and 1906. She was based at St Ives, Cornwall, where there was a large contingent of artists whose interests lay primarily in impressionism and plein air painting.
Although the exact location of The Moors is not known for certain, the painting highlights Stoddart’s development at this time. Painted outdoors, loosely applied wet washes of subdued colour effectively convey the overcast atmospheric conditions, which are contrasted with several brightly coloured flowers in the foreground.
Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour on Banks Peninsula, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879, and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club, whose members were concerned with painting outdoors.
A popular flower in New Zealand at this time, roses were also a favourite subject of Margaret Stoddart’s throughout her career. The Impressionist approach she has used in this watercolour is typical of Stoddart’s mature style. Her use of broad washes and loose handling help to capture the atmospheric effects of light falling on the roses. On her return from Europe in 1906 Stoddart’s approach was considered too ‘modern’ by many critics, however she gradually developed a reputation for her sensitive landscapes and flower studies. Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, on Banks Peninsula, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain. They returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. After living in England for several years, Stoddart returned to New Zealand and settled in Diamond Harbour.
Margaret Stoddart was living at St Ives, Cornwall, throughout much of 1902 when this work was painted. Popular subjects with her and many of her contemporaries were orchards and woodland scenes, particularly in spring when the trees were in blossom. Stoddart was interested in the Newlyn School’s naturalistic style of painting, working directly from nature. In this watercolour she has over-painted the work with an opaque body-colour to represent the blossom. She painted several works exploring the effects of light on the blossom at various times of the day. Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, Christchurch, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. After living in England for several years, Stoddart returned to New Zealand in 1907 and settled at Diamond Harbour.
Flower painting was a popular subject with Victorian colonial women artists. It was considered more appropriate than painting landscapes, which tended to be dominated by male artists. Early in her career and influenced by her studies at the Canterbury College School of Art, Margaret Stoddart painted Wallflowers in a careful manner. The School placed an emphasis on close observation and truth to nature. The Australian botanical artist Ellis Rowan encouraged Stoddart and wrote in the Australian Town and Country Journal that, ‘Her grouping, colouring, form and harmony were perfect.’ Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, on Banks Peninsula, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. After living in England for several years, Stoddart returned to New Zealand in 1907 and settled in Diamond Harbour.
‘Storm clouds, Blythburgh, Suffolk’ is typical of Margaret Stoddart’s growing interest in impressionism and painting outdoors while based in England between 1898 and 1906. The atmospheric conditions of the impending storm above Blythburgh have been rendered directly using wet washes of colour. Stoddart travelled widely, taking sketching trips to France, Italy and throughout Britain, often seeking out picturesque villages such as Blythburgh as her subjects. Stoddart enjoyed living at St Ives, Cornwall. The town’s reputation as a plein-air (open air) artists’ colony made it a magnet for New Zealand artists including Frances Hodgkins and Dorothy Richmond, who visited Stoddart there in 1902. (Brought to Light, November 2009)