Portrait of Lady Fergusson
c.1920, 540 x 650mm, Oil on canvas
Maud Burge (née May Williams) was born in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, the third of thirteen children. She was a pupil of James McLauchlan Nairn, and, around the turn of the century, she painted portraits at the studio of Charles Frederick Goldie in Tāmaki Makaurau. She was for many years an ‘expatriate artist’, like Gwen Knight and Dorothy Kate Richmond. She studied in France and was for a time a pupil of an English watercolourist, Fred Mayer. In about 1911, she married another painter, George Burge, and thereafter was associated with Frank Brangwyn in Belgium and Philip Connard in England.
Frances Hodgkins had probably met Maud earlier, as one of the circle of her sister, Isabel Field, in Wellington. In 1924, she described Maud, then living in Montreuil, as a charming but changeable woman. Hodgkins painted in the Burges’ garden at Saint-Tropez in 1931 and was influential in persuading them to take up painting seriously, although Maud had been sending work home for exhibition at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, since 1920. Hodgkins was with the couple again at Mallorca in 1932, and at Ibiza, where Maud accompanied her on painting expeditions. In about 1937, the Burges moved to Aotearoa, settling at Taupō. Her Portrait of Lady Fergusson is an especially fine work. Other examples are at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.