Margaret Stoddart

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1865, d.1934

Bush Fire, Paraparaumu

About the artist

Stoddart, Margaret Olrog (Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1865, d.1934)

Margaret Stoddart, from The Weekly Press 9 June 1909

Perhaps the most effective way to clear the native forest that stood in the way of developing farmland was to set fire to it – something poignantly captured here by Margaret Stoddart. The landscape of Paraparaumu, and the Tararua mountain ranges beyond, was home to one of Aotearoa’s most prized birds, the huia. Now extinct, when Stoddart painted this work around 1908, the last official sighting of huia had been recorded a year earlier. Huia were prized for their distinctive tail feathers by Māori and Pākehā, and were relentlessly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s to satisfy a lucrative trade in their skins for stuffed specimens and their beaks for grim jewellery.

Ship Nails and Tail Feathers, 10 June – 22 October 2023

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • It is thought this nuggetty watercolour painting was completed shortly after Margaret Stoddart’s return to New Zealand from an extended period studying and painting in Europe. Acrid smoke billows upwards as the dense native bush, presumably being cleared for agricultural purposes, is consumed by fire. This is a tough, poignant and unusual subject for Stoddart – far removed from the rather more subdued still-life subjects for which she became so highly regarded. Stoddart’s complete mastery with watercolour is seen in her beautiful handling and contrasting of washes of colour, from the dense darks of the bush to the white smoke. (March 2018)