Olivia Spencer Bower

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1905, d.1982

Camping, Piha, Auckland, 1946

In a career that spanned almost 60 years and included a range of art-making techniques, Olivia Spencer Bower was best known for her watercolours. An active person who enjoyed tramping and outdoor sports, Spencer Bower relished the portability and immediacy of the medium, which enabled her to work directly in the landscape. She also enjoyed the challenges posed by its fluidity and unpredictability. Spencer Bower spent most of her time in Canterbury, but lived in Auckland and Northland between 1940 and 1948. This charming camping scene was painted as a result of one of her regular sketching expeditions, this one to Piha, on the West Coast of the North Island, where her friend the painter Eric Lee-Johnson had rented a bach. Born in England, Spencer Bower’s family came to New Zealand in 1920, and she studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before attending the Slade School of Art in London in 1929. She returned to New Zealand in 1931. She devoted her life to painting and, late in her life, established a Foundation which finances an annual scholarship enabling an artist to work full time for one year.

(Turn, Turn, Turn: A Year in Art, 27 July 2019 – 8 March 2020)