ARNDT, Mina;

Moonlit Night

Gouache on paper
350 x 500mm

Mina Arndt was born to Jewish parents at her family’s property called Thurlby, near Arrowtown. Her father died three weeks before she was born so her Polish mother moved to Dunedin with her four children. In the early 1900s they shifted again, to Wellington where Mina attended art classes at Wellington Technical College in 1905–06. She exhibited with the NZ Academy of Fine Arts and in 1907 left for London with her mother and two sisters. There she attended an art school where her teachers included the English painter Frank Brangwyn. Her descendants believe that she studied at the Slade School of Art. In London she met a German printmaker, Herman Struck, who accepted her as one of his pupils in Berlin. This was unusual at the time because most artists almost automatically headed for Paris rather than to a German city — but Mina Arndt spoke fluent German and had family contacts there. In 1907 she joined Stanhope Forbes’s school of art in Cornwall where she met the painters Harold and Laura Knight.

She shared the Newlyn School’s interest in painting Cornish peasants, an enthusiasm of another New Zealand artist, Wanganui-born Edith Collier. By 1911 she had returned to Berlin where she studied with the painter Lovis Corinth whose loose post-impressionist style and broad brushwork is a clear influence in Moonlight Night. In early 1913 she was back in Cornwall. She exhibited at the Salon of the Societe des Artistes Francais, Paris and also sent work back to New Zealand where it was well received. Returning to Germany in mid-1914 she and her sister were briefly interned then released as part of an exchange of prisoners. After returning to New Zealand in 1914 Arndt lived in Wellington where she rented a studio and exhibited a large number of her European works. Her predominantly dark colours upset critics enthusiastic about high-keyed impressionist painting. Few understood the innovations of her paint application and colour exploration. On 14 February 1917 Mina Arndt married Lionel Manoy, a Wellington widower, in a Jewish ceremony. They moved to Motueka outside Nelson where they lived with Michael’s daughter by his previous marriage. In 1920 they had a son of their own.

At Motueka her husband saw to it that Mina was provided with a studio and home help. With this encouragement she was able to run a summer art school and to paint. She continued to exhibit at the NZ Academy in wellington but her work still challenged the conservative arbiters of taste; the gallery’s hanging committee consistently hung her work above the normal sight lines. However, if provincial Wellington failed to appreciate her in 1926 she was again selected to exhibit at the Paris Salon. Mina Arndt died aged 41. She was largely ignored until as late as 1960 when her son and stepdaughter initiated a retrospective at the Suter Gallery, Nelson. In 1961 the NZ Academy held its own belated retrospective in Wellington. Today paintings by Mina Arndt, though rarely found, are highly regarded by public collections which had the foresight to collect her work.

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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