Rita Angus and Margaret Stoddart cottages

Rita Angus Cottage, Wellington

Stoddart Cottage, Bank’s Peninsula








As I’ve written about the houses associated with two New Zealand women writers (Ngaio Marsh and Katherine Mansfield), I thought I’d now write about the houses associated with two NZ women artists. These two houses are better described as cottages.

Stoddart Cottage is listed by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place. Margaret’s father, Mark Stoddart, was an early prominent Canterbury settler who arrived from Australia with his friend, E.M. Templar, and two thousand sheep in January 1851. They arrived in Lyttelton while Canterbury’s ‘first four ships’ were still at anchor. In the later 1850s Stoddart acquired about five hundred acres in Banks Peninsula on a bay he named Diamond Harbour. By 1861 Stoddart had taken up residence on the land, and during a stock-buying trip to Australia bought the cottage which was assembled in time for his wedding to Anna Barbara Schjott (1835-1911) in February 1862.

Margaret Stoddart (1865-1934) was their second daughter and became a well-known flower and landscape painter. The cottage is the subject of one of her best loved paintings: ‘Old Homestead, Diamond Harbour’ dating from 1913 (Christchurch Art Gallery collection).

angus Stoddart

The photo at the top was taken by me in 2001 when you could get inside the house. The photo to the left is from the 1980s and it and the reproduction of the 1913 painting are from Julie King’s book “Flowers into Landscape: Margaret Stoddart (1856-1934)”, which is the catalogue of an exhibition at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch in 1998. When I visited the house again in 2012 it was closed following the Canterbury earthquakes, but according to this Diamond Harbour website it is now open again.

January 2016 update: Christchurch Art Gallery has recently put online one of Margaret Stoddart’s photograph albums; dating from c. 1893-96 it includes images of Canterbury, the West Coast, Chatham Islands and Tasmania and Victoria, Australia. She has delightfully combined the photographs with her watercolour drawings. You can view it by clicking the link above (you will need to download the PDF). “An album of photographs, watercolours and clippings created by Margaret Stoddart (1865-1934). This album is on display in the exhibition Nature’s Artist at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu until 8 May 2016. Margaret Stoddart Album No. 2 1886–96. Collection of Canterbury Museum, 2015.115.1 to 2015.115.143. Reproduced with the kind permission of Canterbury Museum.”

The Rita Angus Cottage is thought to date from about 1877. Its early history isn’t well-known, but in any case it is the association with artist Rita Angus (1908-1970) (as her home between 1955 and 1970) that gives it its special character and historic place Category 1 listing. The cottage features in a number of her paintings – ‘The Artist’s Studio’, c. 1962 and ‘Garden with Magnolia Tree and House’ c. 1962, for example (both Angus Estate) and ‘Self-Portrait with Fruit’, 1960-61 (Te Papa Collection). I saw all of these, and many more, at the excellent exhibition of her work shown at Te Papa in 2008.

Angus books The “Rita Angus Life & Vision” (ed William McAloon & Jill Trevelyan) is the catalogue for the 2008 exhibition; Jill Trevelyan’s biography, “Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life” came out at the same time (both Te Papa Press, 2008) and “Rita Angus: Live to Paint & Paint to Live” by Vita Cochrane and Jill Trevelyan is the catalogue for an earlier, smaller, exhibition at City Gallery (2001), which I also saw.

I have visited the cottage a few times – it is used as an artists’ residence so it’s not generally open to the public, but I have been on a couple of organised visits as well as going to see an exhibition by Northland artist Scott McFarlane when he was one of the artists-in-residence. Tucked into the hillside, it was a cold house until the heating was improved by the time of my latest visit a few years ago. On that visit we also visited the house of Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001), only a few houses away. Lilburn (a well-known New Zealand composer) and Angus were good friends and her painted portrait of him is often reproduced. His Modernist-style house dates from 1951 and is also a Category 1 listed historic place.

Douglas Lilburn Cottage

Douglas Lilburn House


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s