- Lawrence Baigent / Robert Erwin bequest, 2003
- Reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Rita Angus
- 400 x 300mm
A keen gardener, Rita Angus painted flower studies throughout her career. During the 1940s in particular she painted some very elegant and botanically exact works such as Irises. Her flower studies allude to the symbolic meanings of flowers, a common feature of Medieval and Renaissance art. She often included flowers in her portraits to represent their associated meanings. The iris stands for faith, wisdom and hope. Angus was born in Hastings. She studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1927 to 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.
This article first appeared as 'The meticulous small world of Rita Angus' in The Press on 9 December 2014.
A Room of One’s Own
Three influential female artists united by talent, tenacity and self-belief.
This article first appeared in The Press as 'Viewing Rita Angus with Leo's eyes' on 26 May 2015
Huge congratulations to Zina Swanson who has just been announced as the Francis Hodgkins Fellow for 2013.
A few days ago, there were lots of little bits of glass and metal strewn (in a highly systematic way) across the floor of our NG gallery space.
‘Houses and outhouses, Purbeck’ was completed just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In 1941 the English artist John Piper, who was an ardent supporter of Hodgkins, described this work and several others closely associated with it: ‘This is Frances Hodgkins’ war art. They are paintings that are urgent, tragic comments on dereliction and wreckage. They are not war subjects, but humanity at war is the emotional background for these rubbish heaps among the out-houses of a south Dorset farm.’ The bright palette, however, offers a more optimistic outlook than the foreboding darkness of Zipp, which was completed towards the end of the war in 1945. (Brought to Light, November 2009)
By 1937 Frances Hodgkins had established herself as a major artist in Britain. During this period she began using gouache, which became one of her favoured mediums in the final years of her career.
This work highlights the experimental quality that gouache offered her at this time. Using an almost calligraphic technique, the paint has been applied freely and expressively using a variety of brush marks.
Hodgkins was born in Dunedin and was initially trained by her father, part-time watercolourist William Matthew Hodgkins. In 1893 she took classes with G. P. Nerli, and in 1895/96 studied at the Dunedin School of Art. Hodgkins left to study at the London Polytechnic in 1901 and in 1903 she exhibited at the Royal Academy, becoming the first New Zealander to have the honour of being ‘hung on the line’. Living in Paris between 1908 and 1912, Hodgkins taught at the Académie Colarossi, where she was the first woman on staff. She eventually settled in England, where she exhibited with many art groups and galleries, including the Lefevre Galleries in London from 1932.
Rita Angus painted many still life subjects in watercolour, often focusing on flowers and potted plants. Her interest in simplifying forms into geometric planes shows the influence of the French artist Paul Cézanne, for whom elements of design and composition were paramount. Typically, Angus has handled the washes of colour with great skill, layering them to produce subtle differences in tone. She has incorporated landscape elements of a bay and headland in the background, (probably Wellington Harbour) effectively offsetting the pot plants, giving the composition a real sense of depth. Angus was born in Hastings. In 1927 she began studies at the Canterbury College School of Art until 1933. She then worked as an illustrator for the Christchurch Press Junior. By 1955 she had settled in Wellington and in 1958 was awarded an Association of New Zealand Art Societies Fellowship, which allowed her to travel to England and Europe. There she studied old masters as well as contemporary art. She died in Wellington.
‘I can't tell you the horror of the Blackout and the effects on your nerves - the want of ventilation at night is very tiring - perhaps the nastiest part of it all.' - Frances Hodgkins in a letter to her brother, William.