Olivia Spencer Bower

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

Untitled ( Meadow)

  • Donated in memory of Rangipo and Judith Mete Kingi, 2016
  • Watercolour
  • 321 x 378mm
  • 2016/008
  • c. 1975

In a career that spanned almost 60 years, and included a range of art-making techniques, Olivia Spencer Bower was best known for her watercolours. She valued the medium’s portability, which enabled her to work directly in the landscape. Her family home, Claxby, was located on the Canterbury Plains near Eyreton, and she made many sketching exhibitions up into the high country, along the Waimakariri River and along both coasts of the South Island. This view of lupins in a meadow, crisply framed by the snowy mountains of Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana / the Southern Alps, reflects both her compositional skill and her ability to create a sense of immediacy and spaciousness. Born in England, Spencer Bower’s family came to New Zealand in 1920, and she studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before attending the Slade School of Art in London in 1929. She returned to New Zealand in 1931. She devoted her life to painting and, late in her life, established a Foundation which finances an annual scholarship enabling an artist to work full time for one year.

(Turn, Turn, Turn: A Year in Art, 27 July 2019 – 8 March 2020)