c.1910, 490 x 640mm, Watercolour on paper
Margaret Stoddart was born into a prosperous and cultured family. In 1876, she was taken to visit relatives in Edinburgh, where she attended a ladies’ college. On returning to Aotearoa, she enrolled at the Canterbury College of Art in its opening year, 1882, graduating in 1889. During this period, she was a member of the Palette Club, an association of artists who were committed to painting from nature. A keen tramper, she made many trips around Banks Peninsula and into the Southern Alps, sketching the landscape and collecting specimens for studies of native plants. Before long, she had established a reputation as one of the country’s foremost flower painters, and, in 1885, she was elected to the council of the Canterbury Society of Arts.
In 1897, Stoddart left for Europe, where she travelled widely in Norway, France, Switzerland, and Italy. While staying at St Ives, Cornwall, the centre for English impressionism, her artistic interests were broadened and landscape emerged as a dominant theme in her work. She was away from Aotearoa for nine years. Returning home, she painted prolifically, exhibited widely (including at the Salon in Paris between of 1909 and 1914), and took an active part in artistic affairs in Canterbury. A large retrospective exhibition of her work was held by the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1928. Over the years, she won the admiration of critics and artists, among them younger painters, such as Rita Angus, Olivia Spencer-Bower, and Toss Woollaston. She never married.
A more extensive biography is available on Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.