Watercolour on paper
490 x 640mm
Margaret Stoddart was born at Diamond Harbour, Canterbury 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 New Zealand 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 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 New Zealand for nine years during which she exhibited widely. She continue to paint prolifically and to take an active part in artistic affairs in Canterbury as well as exhibiting in the Paris salons of 1909 and 1914. She was the recipient of a large scale retrospective in 1928 and she died at Hanmer Springs in 1934. Her bold and free watercolour technique was based on the application of layers of very wet washes, often sponged to remove colour and over which she worked with light and rapid strokes to provide detail. This watercolour, one of her very finest, is adventurous in composition and very subtle in its use of blues and purples to suggest depth. It is indicative of her great skill that an envious Frances Hodgkins was moved to describe Stoddart’s work as “hopelessly dowdy and uninteresting”, a view not shared by public or critics since.