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18 August 1990 —
16 September 1990

Olivia Spencer Bower:
Fifty Years of Painting

Olivia Spencer Bower: 50 Years of Painting, 1990 (installation view).
Olivia Spencer Bower, Irises, 1973. Watercolour. 750mm x 550mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (double portrait), c 1977. Watercolour. 510mm x 739mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (Hokianga, the school launch), 1948. Watercolour. 320mm x 415mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (Italian Landscape), 1931. Watercolour. 245mm x 345mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (Perugia, Italy), 1963. Watercolour. 476mm x 645mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (study of an old man), c 1963. Watercolour. 719mm x 537mm.
Olivia Spencer Bower, Untitled (Time study - mother reading), c 1955. Watercolour. 193mm x 432mm.


This major retrospective exhibition which surveys Olivia Spencer Bower’s artistic achievement features a selection of works including landscapes, portraits and still-life paintings. Judith Hamilton has called Olivia Spencer Bower an adventurous artist who preferred to look ahead and accept new challenges rather than contemplate past achievements. Her reputation as a leading water colour painter was established early in her career, but she also painted major works in oils and acrylic and produced woodcuts and linoprints.

Olivia Spencer Bower came to New Zealand in 1920 at the age of fifteen . Her mother, the painter Rosa Dixon, wanted her daughter - who showed great promise as a child -to be an artist. She attended the school of art in Christchurch between 1920 and 1928 and returned to Europe to study at the Slade and tour art centres. On her return to New Zealand in 1933, she became involved in The Group. In exhibitions with them her work was noted for its individual outlook... fine drawing, cleaning colour washes and delicate tones. Before her death, Olivia Spencer Bower established a foundation to be funded from the sale of works. The Foundation sponsors scholarships which allow painters and sculptors to work full time for one year.

Selected works from this exhibition will be available for purchase to maintain the foundation scholarship. This exhibition is a tribute to the achievements of one of New Zealand’s major woman artists whose delight in the visual world was translated into vibrant colourful paintings.


→ Olivia Spencer Bower: 50 Years of Painting, 1990, publication


→ Leary enshrines love of the sea, New Zealand Herald, 06-09-1990
→ Fisher Gallery pays tribute to Olivia Spencer Bower, Eastern Courier, 22-08-1990


→ Olivia Spencer Bower: 50 years of Painting, 1990, poster

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