Rita Angus, New Zealand’s Iconic Painter

Sumner Beach | Rita Angus

Rita Angus, a celebrated figure in New Zealand’s art history, is revered for her significant contribution to the country’s cultural landscape. Born on this day March 12, 1908 in Hastings, Rita displayed an inherent artistic flair from a young age. Her education at Canterbury College School of Art further honed her skills, and she emerged as a distinctive and accomplished painter. Angus’s work primarily comprised landscapes and portraits, characterized by their simplicity, clarity, and attention to detail. Her style, though influenced by international modernist currents, was uniquely her own.

The legacy of Rita Angus is enduring and profound. Despite the personal challenges she faced, including a battle with mental illness and the constraints of a society that often failed to recognize female artists, Rita remained resolute in her devotion to her craft. She was instrumental in shaping a distinct New Zealand identity through her art. Her iconic painting “Cass” (1936) is often considered one of the greatest works in New Zealand’s art history. It not only encapsulates her exceptional talent but also symbolizes her deep love for the country’s landscape.

In many ways, Rita Angus was ahead of her time. Her paintings were imbued with a sense of tranquility and timelessness that continue to resonate with contemporary audiences. She was unafraid to experiment with form and color, pushing the boundaries of convention and challenging the status quo. This boldness is evident in her self-portraits, which were unusual for female artists of her era.

Rita Angus passed away in 1970 leaving behind a rich artistic legacy that continues to inspire generations of artists in New Zealand and beyond. Her life and work serve as a testament to the power of art in shaping cultural identity and challenging societal norms. Today, Rita Angus is rightfully acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s most iconic painters, whose influence on the country’s art scene remains indelible.

Curated by Jennifer