Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rita Angus with Green Beret

Rita Angus (1908-70) is one of New Zealand’s most significant artists. A pioneer of modern painting in this country, she created some of our most memorable and best-loved images.

Here, Rita Angus portrays herself as a ‘modern woman’ – urbane, stylish, and in complete control of her own destiny.Self-portrait, 1936-37, Rita Angus

Everything in the picture is carefully staged, from the cigarette – billowing perfect smoke rings – to the beret, casually clasped over her elbow. Angus stares boldly out of the picture, a challenging yet guarded figure.

Angus first exhibited this work in 1937 under the title ‘Portrait’, so that only those who knew her would recognise it as a self-image. Today, it is one of her best-known pictures.

Rita Angus was anadmirable pacifist and deeply opposed to World War II. She refused to work in a factory to support the war effort and was eventually prosecuted in court. The 1940s were an unsettled time for Angus, marked by personal troubles and illness. She became more solitary, determined to devote her life to painting. In 1943, her father, concerned about her well-being, bought her a house in Christchurch. The place became a sanctuary for her.

A fantastic exhibition of Rita Angus' work was on display at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, NZ.

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