Rita Angus

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1908, d.1970


  • 1933
  • Oil on board
  • Private Collection. In memory of Beryl Jones.
  • 492 x 390mm
  • L02/2017
  • View on google maps

The Christchurch Gas Company commenced operations on the corner of Moorhouse Avenue and Waltham Road in 1864. When Rita Angus painted Gasworks six decades later, she was living on the edge of a semi-industrial area two blocks away at 120 Ferry Road, lodging with her husband’s family as well as her youngest sister, Jean. Gasworks was a revelation when first shown at the Canterbury Society of Arts annual exhibition in 1933. Fellow painter Margaret Anderson later recalled “the tall chimney of this work as an event of greater artistic importance than any that had happened in Christchurch for years”. In reflecting something of the sharp austerity of the Depression years, the work also encouraged others to unlock the artistic possibilities in commonplace industrial subject matter.

(From Here on the Ground, 18 May – 17 November 2024)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Rita Angus’s Gasworks was greeted with wide admiration when it was first shown at the Canterbury Society of Arts’ annual exhibition in March 1933. Here was an artist focusing on one of the most heavily industrialised sites in Christchurch. It was reproduced in The Press but more importantly in Art in New Zealand where it was seen by a wide audience. It directly influenced other artists such as Doris Lusk, Margaret Anderson and Anne Hamblett (later McCahon). The poet and printer Denis Glover, who established the Caxton Press in 1933, reminisced on Angus’s Gasworks in the 1970s; The first time I even heard of Rita was when I saw Gasworks. I was young and more ignorant than I am now, if that were possible. Most of us students were in a mood of fierce idealistic realism. The Woolston Gas Works was as stark and grey as Stalin’s uniform. … But the Gas Works…here was something! In one puff was blown away all the genteel piddle-painting English, to this day not sure if they are New Zealanders or First Four Colonels’ Daughters. [Angus] set out to impose order and clarity and immense discipline on what she saw. There were no emotional overtones. The looker could provide them for [themselves].

    (March 2018)