Leo Bensemann & Friends: Portraiture and The Group
April 12 - May 28
Leo Bensemann, Caroline Oliver (1940), oil on board. Private Collection.
Master Bedroom, Little Gallery & Boardroom
Curated by Peter Simpson for the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington, the Wallace Arts Trust is hosting an intriguing exhibition showcasing the portrait paintings by The Group, a collective of outstanding 20th century New Zealand artists.
Portraits by and of Leo Bensemann are foremost among 50 outstanding examples created by the Christchurch-based artists known as The Group, in the middle decades of last century. Drawn from private and public collections, names such as Evelyn Page, Olivia Spencer Bower, Rita Angus, Toss Woollaston, Doris Lusk and Colin McCahon come to life as both subjects and artists.
Collectively, says curator Peter Simpson, they re-invented the art of portraiture for their time and place, and provided images of their contemporaries which are vividly alive and still speak eloquently to us living in another century.
Bensemann is at the heart of this exhibition because of all these painters, who knew each other well and belonged to the same social networks, he favored portraiture above all else. He is given priority, Simpson says, not because he is “better” than his friends and fellow Group members but because he is currently the least well-known of these, the leading visual artists of their generation, and is worthy of equal recognition as a portrait artist.
Peter Simpson is the author of “Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933–1953”, telling of the remarkable two decades in Christchurch where the works of a group of extraordinary men and women, artists and writers, redefined the New Zealand’s mid-century cultural life.
Thank you to the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pukenga Whakaata for making this exhibition possible.