Queen Street, Auckland
1934, 300 x 310mm, Watercolour on paper
Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Christie trained at the Elam School of Fine Arts in Tāmaki Makaurau. She did not pursue further studies in art abroad but remained in Aotearoa. In 1933, she was an exhibiting member of the Auckland Society of Arts. From 1935 to 1940, she taught art at Takapuna Grammar School. After its foundation in 1936, she was an active member of the Rutland Group, which had been formed by a group of ex-Elam students in order to pursue a more adventurous line in painting than that favoured by the then conservative Auckland Society of Arts. During the Second World War, she served with the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Works by her were included in the 1944 Artists in Uniform exhibition.
Throughout the 1950s, she exhibited at the Auckland Society of Arts in the company of such artists as A. Lois White, May Smith, Frances Hunt, and Helen Brown. She struck out on an original path, refusing to paint the rather gloomy, empty landscapes that were then in fashion and instead specialising in cityscapes filled with people. She made sketches at social occasions, such as the annual Elam balls, and later worked them up into paintings in which individual characters were clearly recognisable. Ironically, it was probably this very ability as a recorder of social activities which was responsible for her failing at the time to achieve the reputation of her landscape painting contemporaries.