Chrystabel Aitken

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1904, d.2005

A Bull

  • 1930
  • Bronze
  • Purchased 1993
  • 650 x 470 x 310mm
  • 93/24

Chrystabel Aitken’s childhood was spent on a farm in Southland, but, recognising her artistic abilities, her family moved with her to Christchurch so she could study at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1921. She later tutored there.

Aitken had a lifelong interest in portraying animals, and made this bull as a tribute to the famous French animal painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899). Originally cast in plaster from a sculpted clay model, it was cast in bronze fifty-five years later.

(Beasts, 2015)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • This work existed as a plaster for almost 55 years, before being sent to Melbourne to be cast in bronze. It can be seen as a tribute to Rosa Bonheur (1822 -1899), the successful nineteenth century French animal painter whom Chrystabel Aitken greatly admired.

    Aitken was introduced to the Arts and Craft movement through her sculptor teacher at the Canterbury College School of Fine Arts, Francis Shurrock (1887-1977). He urged students to explore the simplicity of forms in sculpture and that influence can be seen in the strong robust modelling of this work.

    Born in Southland, Aitken began training at Canterbury College c.1921. In 1926 she was appointed part-time assistant to Francis Shurrock and in 1930 she won the first school medal ever awarded for Special Excellence in Modelling. In the late 1930s Aitken was part of a team of sculptors commissioned to work on the buildings for the 1939 -1940 ‘New Zealand Centennial Exhibition’ in Wellington. She has worked in a variety of media including sculpture, painting, printmaking, metalwork and jewellery.