Rita Angus

Rita Angus (1908 – 1970)

“Angus was an artist whose influence was considerable but who received the recognition she richly deserved only late in her life. Her drawing skills were highly developed and her command of watercolour and oil paint total. She was unrivalled as a portraitist. With her skill she could have settled down to a financially secure life as a commercial artist, a job she performed from 1934 to 1937. Instead she devoted her life to her art and her pacifist beliefs and suffered privations accordingly.

Angus acted as a bridge between the 1930s and the 1960s in preserving the regionalist style, taken up and utilised to great effect by a succeeding generation of painters ([Don] Binney, [Glenda] Randerson, [Michael] Smither). Although she painted only one abstract in her life, Angus had a modernist attitude to her landscape and portrait work. As a trained artist Angus was aware of art history and, to the extent of publications available, of what was going on overseas.

The composition of Angus’s many fine portraits shows her interest in Renaissance painting. In another link with the old masters, Angus did some 55 self-portraits, charting, as did Rembrandt, progress through life.

Angus had been painting seriously for 30 years before she had her first one-person show in 1957. Ironically, her work has now become classic. It is among the most popular and valuable art produced in New Zealand during the last century.”

Extracts from:
Brown, Warwick, 100 New Zealand Paintings (Birkenhead: Godwit Publishing, 1995).