With two new exhibitions, The Moon and the Manor House and Leaving for Work, visitors to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū can enjoy a mix of new acquisitions and old favourites presented in a new context this summer.
The Moon and the Manor House showcases the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts Movements of the late 19th to early 20th century.
“The Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movements came about partly in reaction to the uninspiring type of industrial production of the Victorian era,” says Curator Ken Hall.
“Artists at the time made the pursuit of beauty and ‘art for art’s sake’ their highest goals, and this ambition included fostering an appreciation for handmade items. More and more, art schools are encouraging students to take inspiration from nature.
“The work we’re showcasing here is very beautiful and evocative of an era that takes us from the late Victorian to the 1930s and 40s – as well as paintings, it includes printmaking, ceramics, fine metalwork and architectural design,” Mr Hall says.
The flow of culture between hemispheres saw many British artists and teachers coming here, and New Zealand-born artists studying, working and living abroad.
Notable artists with work in The Moon and the Manor House include Charles Kidson, a teacher at the Canterbury College School of Art at the turn of the century, as well as Christopher Dresser, Gertrude Demain Hammond and Sir Alfred East.
Charles Kidson’s work is also showcased in Leaving for Work, which explores the aesthetic and expressive possibilities of everyday working life.
“It’s a sort of artistic career expo – Leaving for Work presents the work of a variety of artists, all them exploring the aesthetic and expressive possibilities of everyday working life, and giving dignity to labour,” Mr Hall says.
A selection of mainly historical and modernist works follows a path established by mid-nineteenth century French artist Jean-François Millet, represented here by two exquisite etchings. Leaving for Work presents different perspectives on those who had to earn a living, from rustic labour to factory work, keeping shop, making repairs, domestic servitude and performance on stage. Kidson’s portrait of Christchurch potter Luke Adams in his workshop adds a local view.
“Leaving for Work is a mix of loan items, new acquisitions and items from our collection that aren’t necessarily well known, and haven’t been shown in this sort of context,” Mr Hall says.
“It also includes a recently restored painting, attributed to leading British artist Frank Bramley, generously gifted by one of his relatives. It’s a very charming work and we predict it will become a strong visitor favourite.”
Complementing the selection is an engaging, large-screen digital presentation of little-known images by early Christchurch photographer Steffano Webb. These remarkable images, from the Alexander Turnbull Library collection, give an evocative sense of working life in early Christchurch, and add a deeply fascinating and engaging element to the exhibition.
The Moon and the Manor House and Leaving for Work are both open until 1 May 2022.
Pictured above: Sir Alfred East The Moon and the Manor House c. 1894. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, bequeathed by Hayden R. I. Fraser, January 1975.