The Aviatrix was painted by Rita Angus in 1933. It is in the breathtaking book Rita Angus An Artist's Life by Jill Trevelyan (Te Papa Press) which I got for my birthday today from my parents'-in-law.
The plates of Angus' work reveal her considerable talent for portraiture. I picked this one because an earlier post here about Jean Batten attracted some interest from Australian writer Gondal-Girl who likes aviatrices so I hope she sees this.
The painting is of Angus' sister Edna who was one of the first women in NZ to own a pilot's licence.
And serendipitously, I was invited to visit Angus' former home in Thorndon Wellington this evening. I am involved with the Randell Cottage in Thorndon which is a residency for NZ and French writers, and we are in the early stages of building a relationship with the other artists' residencies in the area: the Rita Angus and Douglas Lilburn, as well as the Katherine Mansfield birthplace.
So in the still of the evening, a small group of writers (including the current Randell Cottage writer-in-residence Jen Compton) and other devoted Friends of the Randell Cottage walked around the small but perfectly formed Rita Angus cottage with its pocket-handkerchief balcony and huge magnolia tree.
We stood in the art room with its paint-spattered floor boards, admired the duck-egg blue kitchen cupboards and looked down from the lush garden bank at the way the magnolia tree grew like the thorns around Sleeping Beauty's castle.
Rita Angus lived here from 1955 and loved its tranquillity and closeness to the city. Her painting above is called Garden with Magnolia Tree.
And here's the book with one of Rita's stunning self-portraits on the cover. I love the way her people take full possession of the canvas and resolutely hold the eye. Even the Aviatrix is bolder and more audacious than Angus' sister in her aviatrix garb.
The paintings can be seen in their full glory in an exhibition at Te Papa now, and if you can't get there the book is the next best thing.
The text is fascinating too. I've learnt, for example, that Angus was a minimalist who kept her cottage very tidy, and always had a self-portrait above the fireplace in the living room. The room she painted in was also the room in which she ironed.
Which links to a previous post here about writing in the midst of things.