One of the Freda Simmonds paintings on display in an upcoming exhibition at the Whangārei Art Museum. Photo / Tania Whyte
TW05102020NADRUGBY_ART038: Gael Ramsay and Carrie de Hennezel hold Kauri Forrest by Freda Simmonds. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northland artist Freda Simmonds is at the centre of an exhibition showcasing friendships and connections during a rebellious period in the country's art scene.
The Whangārei Art Museum was recently gifted 28 art works by the Chris Simmonds Family Trust which include mostly pieces by Freda Simmonds, along with paintings by Colin McCahon, Toss Woolaston and Rita Angus.
The bequest from Simmonds' son is the largest given to the art museum for more than a decade.
A selection of the paintings will feature in an exhibition called Connections which started on October 10.
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The four artists belonged to The Group, a band of New Zealand artists who rebelled against the institutional and conservative national art scene.
The Group existed from 1927 to 1977 and contributed to the development of New Zealand art by providing artists with the opportunity to experiment.
Exhibition curator Gael Ramsay said other works already held by the Whangārei Art Museum will also feature in the exhibition including those by Pat Hanley, Doris Lusk, Yvonne Rust, Olivia Spencer Bawer, Eric Lee-Johnson, Tony Fomison, Milan Mrkusich, Louise Henderson and Gretchen Albrecht.
Those artists also belonged to The Group.
"The connections came about as Freda was mentored and tutored by Colin McCahon and she also did a lot of work with Rita Angus early on.
"On the back of the McCahon painting is a handwritten note to Freda explaining how he'd treated the work to preserve it.
"There are connections with The Group and with Northland. There are lots of connections."
Originally from Auckland, Simmonds began her artistic career after moving to Kaitaia in 1946.
She exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and was a founding member of the Northland Society of Arts.
She studied under the guidance of a number of artists including, along with McCahon, Michael Nicholson, Louise Henderson and Bill Sutton.
Simmonds exhibited regularly with The Group until it disbanded in 1977 having helped establish a contemporary New Zealand art scene.
Her paintings started out with cubist themes and moved on to become abstract paintings of the sea, birds and landscapes.
She died in Whangārei in 1983.
Museum curator Carrie de Hennezel said the bequest means the art museum has significantly added to its collection "to the point where we can now hold a meaningful exhibition of works by The Group for the benefit of the community".
"Any bequest is important, it helps to grow the collection and gives us more to work with and to bring quality art to the population," she said.
"This will enable us to raise the profile of Freda as a Northland artist. It helps us tell the story of Northland through art."
Simmonds' works are also held at Auckland Art Gallery, Victoria University, Northland Society of the Arts, The National Library, Hawke's Bay Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery and various private collections.
The Connections exhibition runs until January.
Visit www.whangareiartmuseum.co.nz for details.