Louise Henderson

France / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1902, d.1994


  • 1987
  • Oil on canvas
  • Dame Louise Henderson Collection, presented by the McKegg Family, 1999
  • 2535 x 1535mm
  • 99/79

At a time in her career when many might have expected her to slow down or even retire, French-born Louise Henderson embarked upon one of her most ambitious creative projects. The Twelve Months distilled her impressions of her life in Aotearoa New Zealand into a dozen tall canvases, filtering the rhythms of the year through her ‘abstract poetic of nature’. Borrowing their proportions from the elegant ‘double square’ of her studio windows, they combined two important aspects of her practice: the all-seeing viewpoints and organisational principles of cubism and the ability to use colour to evoke both form and atmosphere. Often inspired by the view through her window, Henderson manipulated a complex set of variables, considering how the seasons affected the weather and landscape, the changing light and position of the sun, and the fluctuating activities, rituals and moods of people in both the city and the countryside.

In the ‘winter’ months, June and July, Henderson skilfully balanced colour, form and movement to evoke rain-laden clouds, drenched fields and cold, boisterous winds.

Read more about Louise Henderson's Months series

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Louise Sauze (1902–1994) was born in Paris, to a family entwined with art and culture, but her parents denied her an artistic career, despite her early talent. Instead, she married a New Zealander, Hubert Henderson, and arrived in Christchurch in 1925, where she set her own plans in motion. After studying at the Canterbury College School of Art and teaching embroidery and design there, she began to exhibit paintings with The Group, an informal and influential association of artists. Relishing her freedom, she left the city whenever possible to explore and paint in the South Island hill country, often sleeping out alone under the stars. After moving north, Henderson studied with the New Zealand painter John Weeks, developing a more abstracted style. She returned to Europe to study, spending 1952 in Paris, where she consolidated a cubist-influenced approach incorporating tightly organised forms, tilted planes and multiple viewpoints. To Henderson, security meant compromise and her style continually evolved, encompassing a wide range of subjects over her long career. In 1987, aged eighty-five, she completed twelve large canvases, one for each month of the year. Filtering close observations of natural and industrial scenes through a modernist aesthetic, the series was a fearless and profound statement of connection with her adopted land. In June and July, colour, form and movement are skilfully balanced to evoke rain-laden clouds, drenched fields and boisterous winter winds.

    (A room of one's own, 18 December 2015 – 29 May 2016)