Edith Halcombe

Interior of a New Zealand house

Interior of a New Zealand house by Edith Halcombe

Artwork Detail

A pioneering figure in New Zealand lithography and a dedicated painter in an era and environment which precluded women from access to formal art training, Edith Halcombe produced some of the earliest works in oil by an artist born in New Zealand. The daughter of prominent Wellington naturalist William Swainson, Halcombe taught herself to draw as a child by copying her father's sketches, and her family encouraged her to pursue her creative activities. Women artists of her generation often painted domestic subjects because of their ready accessibility and this well-appointed living-room, where a child plays amidst scattered books and toys, is probably the artist's own. Although not stylistically or technically innovative, the picture has many charming details, such as the miniature tea-set, the paintings angled out from the walls and the child's feet dangling off the chair. The painting is well composed and executed, including noteworthy passages such as the carefully observed reflection on the polished tabletop. Nineteenth century women artists often worked in watercolour, considered the medium of the amateur, but Halcombe preferred oils. Her lithographic work included an 1874 series illustrating an account of the settlement of Feilding, written by her husband, farmer-politician A. W. F. Halcombe. She developed a creditable reputation in the 1880s and won prizes in Auckland and Taranaki for her work. (from The Guide, 2001)

Interior of a New Zealand house
Edith Halcombe
Production date
circa 1880
oil on canvas
528 x 580 x 50 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1994
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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