Olivia Spencer Bower

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

Portrait of Alison Pickmere

  • Bequeathed by Olivia Spencer Bower, 1982
  • Oil on board
  • 550 x 417mm
  • 83/08
  • c. 1943

Olivia Spencer Bower was a significant Canterbury artist. This portrait – one of her first – was painted while she was studying under A.J. Fisher at the Elam School of Art in Auckland. Fisher was a former pupil of the Slade School of Art in London where Spencer Bower had gone to study in 1929. She has posed the sitter to highlight her long, elegant neck and delicate features. Spencer Bower was interested in form and space and this portrait shows how she used geometric shapes and contrasting colours of light and dark to create volume. 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 England. She returned to New Zealand in 1931 and devoted her life to painting. Spencer Bower established a Foundation which finances an annual art scholarship.