France / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1902, d.1994
- Oil on canvas
- Gift of the Friends of the Christchurch Art Gallery, 2020
- 2485 x 1485mm
Louise Henderson’s January expresses a sense of ready pleasure in the shimmering colour and light of midsummer, as seen through the ready-framed views of the Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland bush from her studio at the edge of Mount Eden. Painted when she was in her mid-eighties, this is one of twelve large canvases representing the months, and reflects the indomitable attitude Louise developed over many decades. As she revealed to an interviewer, “That’s the good thing about becoming a painter – you never retire. It’s not like an office job where at sixty you stop and then wonder what you want to do with life. Painters never stop painting.”
(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )
At a time in her career when many might have expected her to slow down or even retire, French-born Louise Henderson embarked upon one of her most ambitious creative projects. The Twelve Months distilled her impressions of her life in Aotearoa New Zealand into a dozen tall canvases, filtering the rhythms of the year through her ‘abstract poetic of nature’. Borrowing their proportions from the elegant ‘double square’ of her studio windows, they combined two important aspects of her practice: the all-seeing viewpoints and organisational principles of cubism and the ability to use colour to evoke both form and atmosphere. Often inspired by the view through her window, Henderson manipulated a complex set of variables, considering how the seasons affected the weather and landscape, the changing light and position of the sun, and the fluctuating activities, rituals and moods of people in both the city and the countryside.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the year begins with holidays and summer heat. Henderson’s January suggests activity and freedom; contrasting blue sky and ocean with golden grass and green native forests.