Taradale, Hawke's Bay (1962-63)
In 1960 Rita Angus took on a commission from Napier Girls' High School to paint a mural in dedication to those students lost in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. During this time and in subsequent visits to Hawke’s Bay she painted a number of quintessentially Hawke's Bay scenes including Taradale, Hawke's Bay (1962-63).
About Rita Angus
"As a woman painter, I work to represent love of humanity and faith in mankind in a world, which is to me, richly variable and infinitely beautiful". Rita Angus
Rita Angus was born in Hastings in 1908. Her father was a builder and carpenter and Rita's childhood was spent in a number of North Island towns where her father secured contracts. She was schooled in Palmerston North and then at the Canterbury College School of Art and Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland until 1933.
Rita's studies introduced her to traditional fine arts methods including life drawing, still life and landscape painting. She also received a sound education in art history, developing a specific interest in medieval and renaissance art. For Rita, composition was a particular focus and she took much inspiration for the works of the masters Vermeer and Cezanne.
Through the 1930s and 40s Rita lived in a number of places throughout New Zealand including a stint teaching in Napier. She was based primarily in Christchurch but after a bout of illness moved to Waikanae to be cared for by her parents. In 1955 Rita settled in Wellington.
During the war years Rita took a pacifist stance refusing to work for the war effort. She narrowly avoided punishment for her position but was resolutely against the war. "As an artist it is my work to create life and not to destroy it," she said.
In 1960 Rita took on a commission from Napier Girls' High School to paint a mural in dedication to those students lost in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. During this time and in subsequent visits to Napier Rita painted a number of quintessentially Hawke's Bay scenes including Fog, Hawke's Bay (1966), Taradale, Hawke's Bay (1962-63) and Churches, Hawke's Bay (1962-63).
At times withdrawn and introspective, Rita painted 55 self portraits over her career. Although she did receive some recognition in her lifetime, a resurgence of interest in her life and works came about in the 1980s when a retrospective show appeared at the National Art Gallery. Rita Angus passed away in 1970 after a short battle with cancer.
As a pioneer of modern painting in New Zealand, Angus evolved a distinctive and highly personal art. Always interested in contemporary art developments, she was nevertheless resolute in pursuing her own way as an artist: ‘I am not wholly concerned with art trends as I prefer to find a deeper insight to the limitations which face a N.Z. painter’. Angus set an example to New Zealand artists by her dedication, her professionalism, and her concern for artists’ rights, such as copyright.
Angus was an austere, disciplined, and often exacting woman, who was sustained by her belief in her vocation, and a religious philosophy informed by Far Eastern thought. In 1947 she summed up her attitude towards art: ‘As a woman painter, I work to represent love of humanity and faith in mankind in a world, which is to me, richly variable and infinitely beautiful’.