SHERWOOD, Maud;

Garden with Child in Sandpit

c.1925
Watercolour on paper
430 x 370mm

Inscriptions: Maud Sherwood [l.l.]

Maud Kimbell was born in Dunedin but moved to Wellington while still a child. There she began art studies and was taught by James Nairn who, she wrote in her recollections, told her to “dash [the paint] on, slash it on, don’t be afraid of it! Let the world stare!” His advice was obviously well heeded because Maud Sherwood’s work always exhibits a freedom and vividness which raises her far above those painters who labour carefully away producing only timid work. In 1910 she made her first trip to Europe, taking classes in Paris and painting in Holland and in Brittany. Like Frances Hodgkins she believed that it was best for serious artists to work away from New Zealand “because good, modern art is high above the heads of 999 out of 1000 New Zealanders.” (N.B. In 1915 Maud Sherwood would have been seen as a daringly modern painter.) In 1913 she established herself as an artist in Sydney where in 1917 she married a businessman named Sherwood.

She exhibited with various societies and took classes at the Sydney Art Society. She left her husband in 1917 and in 1925 returned to New Zealand for a comprehensive exhibition of her work at the Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington. Between 1926–1933 Maud Sherwood travelled in Italy, France, Spain and North Africa. She exhibited in Paris, Rome and at the Royal Academy in London. On her return to Sydney she showed her European work and received high praise particularly for her daring use of colour. She continued to paint and exhibit during the 1940s, having equipped herself with a caravan in which she made extensive trips in search of subjects. She died on one of these trips at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Her work retained its freshness and verve into the artist’s old age. This fine, intimate little watercolour (one of three of her watercolours in the collection) is typical of the artist’s work.

She mostly painted in watercolours, favouring a dark palette using deep greens and blues others shied away from. She often chose to paint shady locations in bright sunlight to allow her to explore her abilities as a painter of shadows. This baldly descriptive title is very likely one which an art auctioneer thought up on the spur of the moment. Maud Sherwood usually often gave her paintings poetic titles which reflected her feelings about the subject she chose to paint. In this she reflected her training and the prevailing fashion for an expressivist art. Artists of her day were admired not so much for the ideas which their works conveyed but rather for the emotions they communicated directly to the viewer. Maud Sherwood preferred to concentrate on those associated with domestic repose rather than the grander emotions evoked by New Zealand’s alpine scenery.

The Fletcher Trust Collection is one of the largest curated private collections of Aotearoa art. The Trust makes works available online as well as via exhibitions initiated by public art institutions and by the Trust itself.

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