Being a full-time professional artist meant considerable sacrifice for Victorian women - and Frances Hodgkins and Edith Collier are prime examples.
A play about Hodgkins' life will be performed twice in Wanganui's Sarjeant Gallery on Sunday.
The Dunedin-born painter was New Zealand's most significant 20th century ex-patriate modernist artist. She managed to make a successful life in the United Kingdom - but at great cost.
"She was very poor. She went and stayed with people, and gave them paintings instead of paying rent."
Hodgkins taught Wanganui's Edith Collier, who went to England to further her art but later returned to New Zealand. Back home her art went unappreciated, her father burned her paintings of nudes and she spent the rest of her life as a domestic spinster aunt.
"Edith Collier's story is perhaps one of the reasons why Frances Hodgkins didn't come back to New Zealand. She tried to persuade her to stay," playwright Jan Bolwell said.
Bolwell's play, Double Portrait: Finding Frances Hodgkins, has three actors, with Bolwell taking the role of Hodgkins and incorporating music and dance "to illustrate various period pieces".
Actors Perry Piercy and John Wraight play other characters, including art dealers, students and friends.
The play was designed to be performed in art galleries, and has been well received in at least six so far. It takes 75 minutes and ends with a question-and-answer session.
It's the third for Bolwell, who said she started writing after a bout with breast cancer and found she didn't want to stop.
•The Handstand Productions presentation of Double Portrait is performed at the Sarjeant Gallery at 4.30pm and 7.30pm on November 7. Tickets are on sale at the gallery.