Louise Henderson: From Life is the first major survey of work by French-born, New Zealand artist Louise Henderson (1902–1994) and opens at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki on Saturday 2 November. Featuring work from across Henderson’s seven-decade career, the exhibition traces the development of the artist’s bold and colourful abstract style.
In 1925, Henderson emigrated to Christchurch to join her husband, a New Zealander, and quickly established herself as a central figure in the local art scene. She would go on to work alongside major figures including Rita Angus, John Weeks, Colin McCahon and Milan Mrkusich. Henderson was one of the first New Zealand artists to commit herself to an overtly modern style, but despite her prominence there has been no comprehensive survey of her work until now.
Louise Henderson: From Life reappraises Henderson’s remarkable and complex practice, exploring the evolution of her art and the periods she spent working in Paris, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and the Middle East.
The exhibition includes early watercolours of the Canterbury landscape, abstracted still-life compositions, sensuous Cubist representations of the female figure and lyrical explorations of the New Zealand bush. It culminates with the monumental series The Twelve Months, an ambitious undertaking that Henderson completed when she was 85 years old.
In 1993, Henderson was recognised for her services to art and appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki director Kirsten Paisley says: ‘Louise Henderson cuts a unique path through New Zealand’s art history. With her vitality and restless creative spirit, Henderson produced an outstanding and rich body of work. This exhibition will show the strength and continuity of her vision, and will leave a younger generation of artists with a new appreciation for her energy and creativity.’
Blair Jackson, director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, says: ‘Henderson’s career included not only painting, but design, embroidery and education. Her practice defies easy categorisation and, as a consequence, she has been underexposed in our art history. Louise Henderson: From Life is the first attempt to examine her remarkable career.’
Published on the occasion of the exhibition, a substantial publication on the artist’s life’s work will share new research into Henderson’s complex and wide-reaching career.
Louise Henderson: From Life has been jointly developed by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. The exhibition was cocurated by Felicity Milburn and Lara Strongman (Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū), and Julia Waite (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki). It will open in Christchurch in June 2020.