BURGE, Maud;

Portrait of Lady Fergusson

c.1920
Oil on canvas
540 x 650mm

Maud Burge (nee May Williams) was born in Wellington, the third of thirteen children. She was a pupil of James McLauchlan Nairn and around the turn of the century painted portraits at C.F. Goldie’s studio in Auckland. For many years an expatriate artist like Gwen Knight and Dorothy K. Richmond, she studied in France and was for a time a pupil of an English watercolourist, Fred Mayer. In c. 1911 she married a painter George Burge and thereafter was associated with Frank Brangwyn in Belgium and with Philip Connard in England.

Frances Hodgkins had probably met Maud Burge earlier as one of the circle of her sister Isabel Field (née Hodgson) in Wellington. In 1924 Frances Hodgkins wrote of Burge, then living in Montreuil, as a charming but changeable woman. Hodgkins painted in the Burges’ garden at St. Tropez in 1931 and was influential in persuading Maud and her husband to take up painting seriously though Mrs Burge had been sending work home for exhibition at the NZ Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington since 1920. Frances Hodgkins was with the Burges again at Majorca in 1932 and at Ibiza where Maud accompanied her on painting expeditions. In c.1937 Mr and Mrs Burge returned to New Zealand to live, settling at Taupo.

The unsigned picture known as Portrait of Lady Fergusson is a portrait of the artist’s sister Githa Williams, wife of Admiral Sir James Fergusson. He was the brother of Sir Charles Fergusson, Governor-General of New Zealand from 1924 to 1930. Githa Fergusson settled in Europe when she married but returned to New Zealand for long visits during the twenties, staying with her own family in the Wairarapa and with her husband’s family at Government House. The sisters could well have met up in New Zealand but, as the wife of a British naval officer, Githa could easily have found herself in the Mediterranean setting suggested by this portrait.

Provenance: Captain George Burge thence to Mrs Gay Salter thence to Mr Martin Salter. Purchased at Dunbar Sloane auction, Wellington October 1985. Capt. Burge settled at Masterton after his wife’s death. There he was nursed in his final years by Mrs Gay Salter of Masterton, a niece both of the artist and of the subject. After Capt. Burge’s death in 1960 Mrs Salter inherited all Maud Burge’s remaining paintings, most of which were unsigned. Only this portrait of Lady Fergusson was framed.

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