Olivia Spencer Bower

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


In 1948, Olivia Spencer Bower spent several months at Rawene in the Hokianga Harbour recovering from suspected rheumatic fever, and was reinvigorated by the setting: “I was excited by the spirit of the old fortified hills, the mixture of the old Maori culture with the new, the mangrove swamps, the remoteness of the place and the speedy accessibility to them by launch.” She painted at least five variations of this work.

(Te Wheke, 2020)

earlier labels about this work
  • On the advice of her doctor, Olivia Spencer Bower spent part of 1948 based at Rawene, on the Hokianga Harbour in Northland, to recover from suspected rheumatic fever. During that time she painted a series of watercolour drawings, including this one of Mâori children looking down from a hill to a small school ferry boat departing upstream. Spencer Bower’s watercolour technique was one of loosely handled, broad washes of colour, applied fairly quickly. As seen with the wake caused by the boat in this work, she was also interested in rhythmic linear design. Spencer Bower was born in England, the daughter of the artist Rosa Spencer Bower (née Dixon) (1865 -1960). The family came to New Zealand in 1919 and Olivia studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before travelling to Europe in 1929. There she attended the Slade School of Art and the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. Spencer Bower returned to New Zealand in 1931 and established a successful career as an artist from then on.