A selection of watercolours by one of Canterbury’s most treasured artists.
Drawn from the Gallery’s extensive collection of Olivia Spencer Bower’s work, this exhibition presents a selection of South Island views – from the flowers in the artist’s Christchurch garden to the mighty Remarkables mountain range and Southern Lakes of Central Otago. Together they highlight her uncompromising approach to, and total mastery of, the watercolour medium. Spencer Bower was a key modernist figure in the New Zealand art world during the mid twentieth century. She specialised in watercolours, which was a medium she enjoyed immensely, and developed a distinctive style and technique throughout her career.
Olivia Spencer Bower (1905–1982) was a significant Canterbury artist and this photographic portrait of her is part of a series of New Zealand artists by Marti Friedlander. She has chosen to portray Spencer Bower in her domestic environment, showing the many artworks in her living room. The portrait reveals Spencer Bower’s character as both mischievous and independent. The way the light falls on her subject is often the catalyst for when Friedlander chooses to press the shutter. Here the softness of the atmosphere heightens this evocative moment in time. Friedlander was born in London, she studied photography at Bloomsbury Technical School and worked as a studio assistant for portrait photographer Douglas Glass and fashion photographer Gordon Crocker. She arrived in Auckland with her New Zealand husband Gerrard in 1958. However, it was not until 1964, after returning from a year in Israel and Europe, that Friedlander began taking photographs full-time. She was awarded a Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit in 1999.
In the area just to the north west of Christchurch Cathedral, but taking a high view, this scene looks west towards the Canterbury Museum and the Botanic Gardens in Hagley park, with the Southern Alps in the far distance. By the 1960s Olivia Spencer Bower was firmly established as a significant Canterbury artist. Her broad brushwork creates a vibrant and lively scene and she has freely used washes of colour, showing her sure ability and control with the watercolour medium. Born in England, Spencer Bower was the twin daughter of the New Zealand artist Rosa Spencer Bower (née Dixon). The family came to New Zealand in 1919. Spencer Bower studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before going to the Slade School of Art in London in 1929. She returned to New Zealand in 1931. She devoted her life to painting and, late in her life, established a Foundation which finances an annual scholarship enabling an artist to work fulltime for one year.
April seems to be the month for birthdays and today we salute Olivia Spencer Bower (1905-1982)
Aberhart Starts Here
Iconic and unseen early photographs of Christchurch by Laurence Aberhart
He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land
Canterbury modernist landscape painting from the collections of Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery, poignantly revised from within a Kāi Tahu perspective
Doris Lusk: An Inventive Eye
In the strange, stunned afterlife that ticked slowly by in the first few years following Christchurch’s February 2011 earthquake, a curious note of recognition sounded through the shock and loss. As a massive programme of demolitions relentlessly hollowed out the city, many buildings were incompletely removed and lingered on for months as melancholy remains – stumps abandoned in a forlorn urban forest. Hideous, sculptural, beautiful; they bore compelling resemblance to a body of paintings created in the city more than three decades earlier.
Max Hailstone: Te Ara Takahaka Tapuae / Points of Reference
An exhibition of Max Hailstone's most controversial and important series, using the signatures of the rangatira (Māori chiefs) who signed New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi in 1840
Séraphine Pick's lush watercolour offers a utopian vision in the car park elevator.
Exquisite Treasure Revealed
Canterbury Museum holds two albums compiled by Diamond Harbour artist Margaret Stoddart. The older of the two, containing images featured in this Bulletin, and itself currently exhibited in the Gallery, covers the period 1886–96. The album is handsomely bound in maroon, and stamped M.O.S. in gold. It contains a sort of travelogue by way of black and white photographs set amongst decorative painting, mostly of native flora, with some locality and date information.
Te Rua o te Moko
Each of the eighteen rūnanga within Ngāi Tahu are represented here by a work of art depicting a significant land site.
Cross-cultural encounter in the Pacific shows whaling as central to the local story.
W.A. Sutton: Watercolours of Italy
An exhibition featuring a selection of works from Bill Sutton's 1973–4 Italian sojourn, highlighting his exquisite skill as a draughtsman and watercolourist.
The Gallery's Watercolour Collection had modest beginnings, but over the past 70 years it has grown steadily by gift and purchase and, of all the Collections, still maintains a largely traditional emphasis. When the Gallery opened in June 1932, just 28 of the 128 paintings on display were watercolours and, of these, 11 were by British artists and 17 by New Zealanders. Among the mostly nineteenth century British watercolours were those by Helen Allingham, Edgar Bundy, Matthew Hale, Laura Knight, William Lee Hankey and Ernest Waterlow. In contrast, the New Zealand watercolours were by mostly contemporary or early twentieth century artists and included works by James Cook, Olivia Spencer Bower, Margaret Stoddart, Maude Sherwood, Eleanor Hughes and Alfred Walsh. The foundation Watercolour Collection included two paintings of larger than usual dimensions. William Lee Hankey's We've been in the Meadows all day (1184 x 878mm) and Charles N. Worsley's Mount Sefton (996 x 1105mm) are still greater in scale than any other work in the Watercolour Collection.