Olivia Spencer Bower

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

Towards the Museum

Painted from the old Government Life Building in Cathedral Square, Olivia Spencer Bower’s elevated Ōtautahi Christchurch view Towards the Museum carries a reflective note in its inclusion of many places she had been closely associated with. Canterbury Museum in the centre distance stands to the right of the Christchurch Arts Centre, the sprawling grey-stone Gothic-revival complex known as Canterbury College when she started at its School of Art in her mid-teens. Another familiar landmark, with its modernist zigzag pointed roof, is the Canterbury Society of Arts’ gallery (now CoCA, Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki) in Gloucester Street, opened in 1968 and where many of her later exhibitions were held.

(From Here on the Ground, 18 May – 17 November 2024)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • In the area just to the north west of Christchurch Cathedral, but taking a high view, this scene looks west towards the Canterbury Museum and the Botanic Gardens in Hagley park, with the Southern Alps in the far distance. By the 1960s Olivia Spencer Bower was firmly established as a significant Canterbury artist. Her broad brushwork creates a vibrant and lively scene and she has freely used washes of colour, showing her sure ability and control with the watercolour medium. Born in England, Spencer Bower was the twin daughter of the New Zealand artist Rosa Spencer Bower (née Dixon). The family came to New Zealand in 1919. Spencer Bower studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before going to 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 fulltime for one year.

    (Label date unknown)