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Ryman supports new exhibitions

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Peter Vangioni with a Margaret Stoddart watercolour

On view this summer are some of New Zealand's most important paintings, some not seen publicly in decades. They're being exhibited in Christchurch with the support of Ryman Healthcare.

Ryman is a historical art collection partner with Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, which has recently hung a new selection of works.

Artists and writers represented in the gallery include Rita Angus, Margaret Stoddart, Frances Hodgkins, Evelyn Page and Ngaio Marsh – long-serving village names. Grace Joel is also in the wider collection.

If you get a chance to walk through the gallery in coming months – and you most definitely should – you will see Ngaio Marsh as a painter, rather than the crime writer she was best known as.

​Ngaio was also a mover and shaker within the Canterbury arts scene of the 1920s and 1930s, part of what was known as The Group. This included Rita Angus and contemporaries such as Colin McCahon, Doris Lusk and Olivia Spencer Bower.

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Rita Angus' Cass

Curator Peter Vangioni says one collection highlight on show is a McCahon painting of the Canterbury Plains (1951) has only recently been returned to this country from England. It was donated by the Prior family and can be seen for the first time in decades.

Peter says a newly curated exhibition, titled, New Dawn Fades, includes the gallery's most treasured European artworks. The title alludes to the fact that at the paintings at the time were fresh and exciting but as they aged became historic. Ryman is a valued partner on such historical exhibitions, he says.

Artists and their works include Petrus van der Velden's Marken Funeral Barge, painted in the Netherlands in 1873, before the artist immigrated to New Zealand. Peter remembers during the February 2011 earthquake he had to help ensure a van der Velden collection that he had curated made its way back to its rightful owners after the gallery was forced to close.

LS Lowry's Factory at Widnes (1956) is according to Peter probably one of the most expensive art pieces in the entire collection.

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New Dawn Fades also includes Frances Hodgkins's Spanish Still Life and Landscape (1932). A gallery director Rodney Wilson had the foresight to purchase five Frances Hodgkins works in the late 1970s.

The public can wander through a main part of historical exhibitions which include Maori carvings and weavings, colonial portraits, landscapes and mid-20th Century abstract works by the likes of Evelyn Page, represented by Road through Arrowtown (1942).

Olivia Spencer Bower has an evocative water colour of Ngaio Marsh – herself at work at an easel amidst of the Canterbury hills and big sky.

Rita Angus is represented in the gallery by her iconic work Cass (1936), a painting of a small railway station that Peter points out is "sharp and defined" including the shadows. There is a single figure at the station and Peter has called this section of works, Waiting for a Train.

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Another Rita Angus piece, Gasworks (1933), had not been seen by the public for decades until just recently.

Margaret Stoddart's Diamond Harbour homestead watercolour, part of a colonial landscape collection, verges towards impressionism with details of how light falls onto a path through the trees, Peter says.

The city's art collection, which began with a single painting in 1881, has included insightful purchases with many works having increased in value many times over, he says.

Be sure not to miss the stunning exhibitions by choosing to take time out in the gallery this summer.

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