Art & creativity  |  10 Feb 2020

One of the city’s most loved paintings – Cass by Rita Angus – will soon be missing from the local landscape.

People can see the work, which in 2006 was voted New Zealand’s greatest painting in a Frontseat poll, at Christchurch Art Gallery until 8 March when five gallery areas upstairs close in preparation for a major new exhibition taking over the top floor.

While Cantabrians will miss the iconic image painted in 1936, tens of thousands of people will be able to appreciate Cass as the painting heads to the Royal Academy of Arts in London for a debut international exhibition of works by Angus (1908–1970).

The special three-month exhibition – titled Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist – will take the spotlight at the leading British gallery from 18 October to 24 January next year.

It is the first time that the Royal Academy has hosted a solo show by a New Zealand artist.

Cass will reappear in New Zealand in autumn next year when the exhibition moves to Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington before the popular painting heads home to Christchurch.

Christchurch Art Gallery Director Blair Jackson says Cass – depicting the local railway station and natural landscape – remains one of the Gallery’s biggest drawcards, attracting thousands of people every year.

“When it comes to painting by the popularity numbers, Cass holds the top spot based on a national survey of art lovers,” Mr Jackson says.

“In Canterbury particularly, Cass is very much part of our identity.

“This is one of New Zealand’s must-see paintings. It may be a while before we can enjoy the work again, so we are welcoming everyone to come to the Gallery over the next few weeks and spend some time with Rita Angus in Cass.

“While we will miss its powerful presence, we’re both excited and proud to be lending this remarkable work to the Royal Academy and Te Papa for such an important international exhibition,” he says.

It is the first time that an Angus collection has appeared on a world stage, with more than 70 portraits, landscapes and still life works in the exhibition.

Cass will be back on our walls again,” Mr Jackson says. “In the meantime, we’re excited to be taking the Gallery in a fresh direction this year and engaging in a different way with locals and visitors alike in a striking new exhibition opening in April.”

Revered as one of the country’s greatest painters of the 20th century, Angus’ work reshaped the artistic landscape – presenting New Zealand in a clear, hard light.

“The pioneering paintings of Rita Angus clearly illustrate that art evolves through reinvention and innovation, including in our gallery spaces,” Mr Jackson says.

Developed by the Royal Academy of Arts and Te Papa Tongarewa, Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist features a large selection of works by one of the most important and accomplished figures in New Zealand art.

cass painting

Rita Angus, Cass. Reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Rita Angus.