Famous New Zealanders

Rita Angus

  • Born 12 March 1908, in Hastings - full name Henrietta Catherine Angus.
  • Studied painting at the Canterbury School of Art, Christchurch, and at the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland.
  • Married artist Alfred Cook in 1930, but marriage lasted only four years. Rita's work from 1930-46 was signed "Rita Cook", but she changed her name by deed poll to Henrietta Catherine McKenzie (father's middle name). Still known as Rita Angus.
  • Taught painting, and illustrated for The Press during the 30s and 40s, but suffered from mental illness off and on.
  • Helped establish a distinctly New Zealand style of painting and landscape in the 1930s and 40s, along with Toss Woollaston and Colin McCahon, by using clear, sharply-defined lines and colours, but developed her own distinctive and personal style.
  • Well-known works include
    • Cass (1936)
    • Head of a Māori boy (1938)
    • Portrait of Betty Curnow (1942)
    • Sun goddess (1949)
    • Self-portrait (1966)
  • Her self-portraits (55 altogether) show different stages in her life, including the break-up of her marriage.
  • She died on 25 January 1970.

More information about Rita Angus.