Rita Angus

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1908, d.1970

Untitled (Hop Kilns, Motueka)

  • Harry Courtney Archer estate, 2002
  • Reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Rita Angus
  • Watercolour
  • 580 x 580 x 35mm
  • 2003/06
  • 1941
  • View on google maps

At the start of 1941, Rita Angus, then a leading figure in Christchurch art circles, left the city for good. It was wartime. With many being directed into prescribed war effort work, she chose to take up employment for several months on a tobacco farm at Pangatotara, near Motueka in the Nelson district. There she worked alongside fellow pacifists, including artist Chrystabel Aitken and Courtney Archer, who owned this painting. Long days filled with demanding physical labour saw Angus harvesting and grading tobacco leaves and sometimes tending the drying kilns on the night shift. Travelling into Nelson on occasional weekends meant walking more than twelve kilometres to the nearest bus stop. Despite the demands of such a life, and shortages of art materials, Angus managed to find time to paint the local landscape, including this view of a hop kiln near Motueka. By April, she was able to report: “The harvest is over, and I am glad, as I am very, very weary of physical labour.”

(Beneath the ranges, 18 February – 23 October 2017)

earlier labels about this work
  • In early 1941 Rita Angus worked for several months as a seasonal tobacco picker on a farm at Pangatotara, near Motueka. She was joined by fellow pacifists Chrystabel Aitken and Courtney Archer, who bequeathed this work to the Gallery.

    Painted in a graphic, decorative style, strongly influenced by Japanese woodblock engraving, this work also shows Angus’ dedication to identifying an unmistakeably local scene. She inspired many other artists in their quest to celebrate distinctively New Zealand imagery.

    Angus was born in Hastings. She studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1927-1933. In 1930 she married Canterbury artist Alfred Cook and, although they separated in 1934, she signed her work ‘Rita Cook’ until 1941. She lived and worked in Christchurch until 1955 when she moved to Wellington. In 1958 Angus was awarded an Association of New Zealand Art Societies Fellowship which allowed her to visit England and Europe.