Joan Dukes

Aotearoa New Zealand / British, b.1903, d.1994

Spring

  • Bequeathed by the Artist, 1994
  • Watercolour on paper
  • 500 x 450mm
  • 94/10
  • c. 1935

Encircled by British woodland flowers, a bending branch and hazel catkins, the graceful figure of Spring, with her flowing locks and daisy crown, embodies nature's renewal and the season's return. Frolicking lambs and a nest of baby birds complete the complex, multi-layered composition.

Joan Dukes was born Joan Ivory Packham in Croydon near London in 1903. She studied, and later taught, at the Croydon School of Art, and was commended for her book illustrations in the Royal Society of Arts' Competition of Industrial Designs in 1926 and 1927. As a teacher, she specialised in figure drawing, illustration and the history of costume, adding dress design to her teaching responsibilities at a school in nearby Surrey in 1933. She also took commissions for illustration and stage costume design. She moved to New Zealand in 1936 after marrying the Northland-born Russell Dukes, and they settled in New Plymouth. She exhibited to critical success from 1937 with the Auckland Society of Arts and from 1938 with the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. Dukes gave private art lessons in New Plymouth during the war, and began illustrating for the School Journal in 1945. She also began exhibiting paintings, drawings and illustrations with the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1948. She and her husband moved to St. Kilda in Dunedin shortly afterwards, and then to Christchurch in 1952, where she remained until her death in 1993.

Dukes had a retrospective exhibition at the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1983, and in a discussion of her work described her principal aim as "the expression of subtleties of line and structure in natural form, but with a sense of their underlying pattern". It is likely that Spring was made before her arrival in New Zealand.

(Turn, Turn, Turn: A Year in Art, 27 July 2019 – 8 March 2020)