Ivy Fife

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1903, d.1976

Royal Visit

  • 1954
  • Oil on board
  • Christchurch Art Gallery Foundation Collection, purchased 1996
  • 482 x 580mm
  • L86/95
  • View on google maps

A youthful Queen Elizabeth II became the first reigning British sovereign to visit Ōtautahi Christchurch, efficiently arriving (from Te Tai Poutini / the West Coast via Otira and Darfield) at the city railway station with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at exactly 5.45pm, Monday 18 January 1954. The moment inspired a unique response from local artist Ivy Fife, whose deft, expressive mark-making captured something of its excitement and energy. Pictured in warm evening light beneath the distant Port Hills and pitched roofs of the Gothic railway station, a somewhat chaotic scene is held together through strength of colour, composition and brushwork.

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

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Above Ground, 18 December 2015 – 12 February 2017

    Many artists have depicted this city’s urban spaces, including Ivy Fife, who studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1920 to 1931 and taught there from 1936 until 1959.

    Fife captured the clamour of Christchurch’s railway station on Moorhouse Avenue during the new Queen’s royal visit. Opened in 1877, the station had been a handsome structure, but by 1954 its Venetian gothic arches were under lean-to additions and its brick warmth covered in paint. Demolition came five years later; its replacement, a landmark modernist building, was itself demolished after the Christchurch earthquakes.

  • Ivy Fife was a member of the group now called the ‘Canterbury School’, which in the 1940s and 1950s began to experiment with the theme of the building in the landscape.

    Fife also often featured city events in her painting. Here, she records the January 1954 arrival to Christchurch of the young Queen Elizabeth II, who was met by a large and enthusiastic crowd at the city’s old neo-Gothic railway station in Moorhouse Avenue. This building opened in 1877 but was demolished in 1959.

    Ivy Fife was born in Christchurch and studied at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1920–31. In 1936 she became a member of the college staff, teaching landscape painting, a position she held until her retirement in 1959. In 1954 Fife was appointed to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery advisory panel. Her work was exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and she was represented in the 1951 Festival of Britain, held in London, in the ‘International Women’s Art Club’ exhibition.

    (Label date unknown)