Olivia Spencer Bower

England / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

The Verandah

  • Watercolour, charcoal
  • Anonymous bequest, 1968
  • 445 x 605mm
  • 69/42

As a location that links the domestic interior with the exterior spaces of the garden, the verandah was rich in meaning for Olivia Spencer Bower, often containing an element of autobiography. The verandah at the Spencer Bower family home at Claxby on the Waitaha Canterbury Plains was one of the artist’s favourite spaces and became a recurring theme in her paintings. Although this view is from a different verandah, the scene shows an intimate view of the artist’s life, a place to enjoy the simple pleasures of the home and garden under the protection of the verandah, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Olivia Spencer Bower spent many years living at Claxby, her family’s property on the Canterbury Plains. She made many sketching expeditions into the surrounding hills and along the Waimakariri River, as well as several paintings of Claxby’s gracious verandah. This airy watercolour, believed to show a similar view from another homestead, shares their interest in depicting a space that sits between the familiarity of domestic life and the wilder open spaces beyond it. 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)