Explore The Painting ‘Douglas Lilburn’ By Rita Angus

‘Douglas Lilburn’, watercolour on paper, 1945

Te Papa

With Te Papa Curator Modern Art Lizzie Bisley

Douglas Lilburn (1945) by Rita AngusTe Papa

This portrait is of Douglas Gordon Lilburn

Lilburn was one of New Zealand's most important 20th-century composers. Rita Angus painted the portrait in 1945 when he was 30 years old.

Douglas Lilburn (1945) by Rita AngusTe Papa

The portrait captures the fall of light across Lilburn’s face

and the soft folds of his shirt.

The bright, white paper has been left unpainted in places.

Behind Lilburn is a stretch of beach and sea.  At the time Angus was living by the beach near Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Lilburn came to Angus' cottage to sit for her.

The painting is signed ‘Rita Cook’ – Angus’ married name. She separated from her husband in 1934 but continued to sign ‘Cook’ until 1947.

Angus was devoted to Lilburn – as a friend and fellow artist.

This is the only portrait that she finished of him.

“The watercolour Portrait is … a peak in my painting life…

… it is of a very intimate nature …

… the expression of my long and deep devotion to Gordon.” (Rita Angus, letter to Charles Brasch, 1947)

Douglas Lilburn, Rita Angus, 1945, From the collection of: Te Papa
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Credits: Story

Text by Te Papa curators Lizzie Bisley and Hanahiva Rose, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2022.
All images reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Rita Angus. 

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