Louise Henderson

France / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1902, d.1994


  • 1987
  • Oil on canvas
  • Gift of the Friends of the Christchurch Art Gallery, 2020
  • 2485 x 1485mm
  • 2021/061

Paris-born Louise Henderson was in her mid-eighties when she took up one of the most ambitious artistic projects of her long career: painting a series of twelve large cubist-inspired canvases tracking the months of the year. Huge and highly immersive, December reflects a twofold response to the season.

In its uninhibited working of abstract colour and form, it echoes the joyful mood of summer. It also contains an encrypted Christmas nativity, an established art historical theme given new, personal expression. The journeying turbaned kings from the east are just detectible at top, giving tribute to the hidden Christ Child.

(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )

Read more about Louise Henderson's Months series

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • 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.

    As the final work in the series, December is a synthesis and culmination of the preceding months. Its joyful colour scheme evokes the freedom and warmth of summertime in Aotearoa, while small flashes of red and green recall the European Christmases Henderson experienced as a child. She deftly incorporated an abstracted nativity at the centre of the composition, encircling it with a curling yellow ribbon.