This watercolour by Rita Angus was inspired by a tree in her sister's garden in Greymouth. Tree demonstrates the heightened intensity with which Angus perceived objects in the natural environment. This intensity is often conveyed through the clarity of the image and the subtle sense of illumination - an aura - around objects. The painting also illustrates Angus's superb watercolour technique.
A knowledge of art
The central placement of the subject in Tree, which seems to float in space, has overtones of Surrealism, while the simplicity of the composition indicates Angus's interest in Chinese painting. The painting illustrates the kind of clarified formalism that made Angus's work so powerful in the 1930s and 1940s, and which was developed from a diverse knowledge of art, including Canadian painting and contemporary British ideas of modern art.
The meaning of a tree
Angus's landscapes communicated a range of values and meanings to a contemporary audience in New Zealand, especially in terms of a growing interest in national identity. Tree is a simple composition and subject, but still evocative. We might read the starkness of the image, which also captures the beauty and emptiness of the South Island landscape as a reflection of the artist's social isolation - Angus lived alone for most of her life. But there is also a sense of playfulness and optimism in the presence of the birds, which enlivens this otherwise austere symbol.
This is one of Angus's major images, purchased by Te Papa from the Rita Angus Estate.
True Size - 311 x 297 with 20mm border
Please note that processing time for Museum Collection Prints/Mātātuhi mai i kohinga o Te Papa is 5 to 10 business days.
Image colours may differ on personal devices compared to the physical print due to screen variations.