About Town

9 February – 27 March 1995

For almost 145 years the Christchurch townscape has provided artists with a source of inspiration. This exhibition, which comprises historical works on loan from Canterbury Museum, the Hocken Library and Christchurch Cathedral as well as from the Gallery's collection, and new works by contemporary artists, aims to show something of the changing face of the city.

The earliest works dating from the 1850s to 1880s are largely by amateur artists, and include several paintings by James Edward Fitzgerald, George Turner and others. Their vision was focussed on recording the infant townscape, its shanty buildings often dwarfed by the dominant natural feature, the Avon River. By the 1890s however, Christchurch and its environs had matured and from its rough origins the town had blossomed into a flourishing city in which artists painted streetscapes expressing permanence and progress.

One of the favoured subjects during the first few decades of this century was Cathedral Square not only because it was the hub of daily activity and transport but also because it was in buildings around the square that many artists had studios. William Menzies Gibb, Walter Bowring and Charles N Worsley were all attracted by The Square as a subject at this time.

Later in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, John Weeks, Rhona Haszard, Cecil Kelly, Archibald Nicoll, James Fitzgerald, Ivy FiFe, M O Stoddart, Evelyn Page and W A Sutton, also found imagery in the inner city. James Fitzgerald in particular made numerous watercolours and etchings of Christchurch buildings and streetscapes for almost 20 years.

In more recent decades artists as diverse as Olivia Spencer Bower, Doris Lusk, Peter Mardon and Owen Lee have found the city a source of interest for their work. Owen Lee continues to paint city subjects.

Among the other contemporary artists in this exhibition are John Brasell, Robert McDowell, Sally Powell, Chris Hadlee, John Coley, Graham Kirk, Kees Bruin and Gillian Hay. Several have painted works especially for this exhibition.

An important feature of About Town is that it has been prepared to coincide with an official visit from representatives of our sister city Christchurch in Dorset, England. It is hoped that they will also gain the benefit of seeing something of the ever changing face of the city through the eyes of some of Canterbury's most accomplished artists.

('About Town', Bulletin, No.94, February/March 1995, p.1)

Exhibition number 574