Louise Henderson

Sketch for Mosaic Altar Panel, St Joseph's Church, Otahuhu

Sketch for Mosaic Altar Panel, St Joseph's Church, Otahuhu by Louise Henderson

Artwork Detail

French artist Louise Henderson was a leading proponent of modern art in New Zealand during the 1950s and 60s. Born in Paris in 1902, she studied first in embroidery and design which made her skilled in the translation of observable forms into two-dimensional elements on a flat plane. Throughout her career she explored creative expression in a range of media including textiles, metal, glass and paint. Unafraid to work at scale, Henderson undertook large commissions for churches and hotels, and submitted designs for a proposed work at the Beehive, which was subsequently awarded to John Drawbridge.

The sketch for the St Joseph’s mosaic is a rare example of her working processes towards a piece of public art. The scale and design reveal her early ambitions and vision for the mosaic, which she reduced down for the eventual work. The work dates from a productive time in the artist’s career. Earlier in the decade she had made large stained glass windows for another catholic church in Auckland, Church of the Holy Cross, that Milan Mrkusich also made work for. Henderson’s connections to Mrkusich extend through the 1960s, and in 1965 they exhibit abstract paintings together in a show titled Milan Mrkusich/Louis Henderson: Painting 1963–65 at the Ikon Gallery.

Henderson’s career culminated in 1987. At eighty-five, she embarked upon one of her most ambitious bodies of work, completing twelve large canvases, 2500 high by 1500 wide, one for each month of the year. Filtering close observations of natural and industrial scenes through a modernist aesthetic, they were a fearless and profound statement of connection with her adopted land. The Twelve Months combine compositional complexity and expressive force on an epic scale.

Sketch for Mosaic Altar Panel, St Joseph's Church, Otahuhu
Louise Henderson
Production date
watercolour, gouache and pencil
2955 x 2205 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2018
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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