This article first appeared as 'Stoddart's summer' in The Press on 15 February 2013.
The Christchurch Art Gallery's watercolour Godley House, Diamond Harbour by Margaret Stoddart carries new significance, representing as it does one of Banks Peninsula's lost treasures. Godley House was one of the Peninsula's architectural gems before it was demolished in 2012 due to damage suffered as a result of the earthquakes. Stoddart was a highly respected artist in her day and has remained one of Canterbury's most accomplished watercolourists. Her ties with Diamond Harbour were strong. Her father, Mark Stoddart, settled in the area in 1852 and Margaret was born there in 1865. In the mid 1890s the Stoddart family acquired Godley House from the Lyttelton merchant Harvey Hawkins who had originally built the house in 1880.
Godley House, Diamond Harbour was painted 100 years ago this year and is one of a number of Diamond Harbour scenes completed by Stoddart at this time. It is immediately apparent in this work that the Stoddart family loved gardening. Flowering herbaceous borders envelop the house and dominate the scene. Stoddart's ability with the notoriously difficult watercolour medium is superb, wet washes of colour are skilfully applied and vibrantly over-painted red and white flowers give the work its intensity. Godley House, Diamond Harbour combines the artist's love of both flower and landscape painting and represents her assured mature style developed after studying in Europe during the early 1900s.
1913 was also the year that the Stoddart family sold their Diamond Harbour estate to the Lyttelton Borough Council for residential development and Margaret's Diamond Harbour paintings from this year were most likely completed as a personal record for herself before the family left the area. In 1912 the Borough Council arranged a picnic to Diamond Harbour inviting the public to visit and view the estate for themselves. According to Edward Chudleigh the sight of the blooming flowers was too much for some and many were unable to contain themselves and rushed the Stoddart's gardens helping themselves to all they could carry. Diamond Harbour continues to provide the perfect daytrip for Christchurch residents, whether it's to tackle the climb up Mt Herbert or just to enjoy the ferry ride across Lyttelton Harbour and relax at the domain, it makes for a great day out.
The Christchurch Art Gallery holds a large collection of watercolours by Stoddart totalling forty works spanning her career. Godley House, Diamond Harbour is one of many works in the collection purchased with funds from the Olive Stirrat Bequest and fits perfectly into Stirrat's desire that her bequest be used to acquire significant historical works for the benefit of Canterbury residents.