The Canterbury Society of Arts was founded in 1880, for promoting study in the Fine Arts, and for the periodical exhibition, in Christchurch, of original works of art. (description from Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood, 1885, NZETC)
The first exhibition in 1881 shows off Christchurch art criticism to good effect (CANTERBURY SOCIETY OF ARTS. The Press, Volume XXXV, Issue 4822, 18 January 1881, Page 3):
No. 52 on the catalogue, by Captain Temple, is entitled ” Early Settlers,” and depicts a landing of Captain Cook when he is interviewed by Maoris of an enquiring turn of mind, who appear particularly struck with the pigs that the explorer has brought to shore with him. ” The Sea Spell” is an effective picture of a drowning man.
Warren Feeney’s book The Radical, the Reactionary and the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1880-1996 details an institution that:
… dominated the cultural life of Canterbury for nearly a century, and played a vital role in the development of New Zealand art … For almost 100 years the CSA provided valued support for the arts, exhibiting the early work of generations of leading New Zealand artists, including Petrus van der Velden, Raymond McIntyre, Margaret Stoddart, Rhona Haszard, Frances Hodgkins, W. A. Sutton, Colin McCahon, Michael Smither, Neil Dawson, Andrew Drummond and Pauline Rhodes … the CSA secured Christchurch’s reputation as the artistic capital of New Zealand in the middle years of the 20th century.
The CSA’s first purpose-built premise designed by Mountfort in 1890 was the first art gallery to be built in Canterbury. You might remember it as a rather lovely red brick building, demolished in 2012. As a a heritage listed building, Rarangi Taonga: the Register of Historic Places has detailed information on its history
Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery (Former) – 282-286 Durham Street:
The Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery consists of two buildings – the first designed by Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898) in 1890. The second, erected next to the first, was designed by Richard Dacre Harman and completed in 1894.
The CSA held an annual exhibition until 1995 when it closed and was re-launched as the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA).
Find out more:
- Search our catalogue for resources on the Canterbury Society of Arts
- Canterbury Society of Arts Catalogues, 1881 – 1910
- List of artists who exhibited with the Canterbury Society of Arts between 1881 and 1995. (Find New Zealand Artists: a database of artist names)
- CSA annual exhibition catalogues from 1881 to 1980 digitised and available online on the Christchurch Art Gallery website.
- Review of the first annual exhibition in 1881. CANTERBURY SOCIETY OF ARTS. The Press, Volume XXXV, Issue 4822, 18 January 1881, Page 3
- Our page on Benjamin Mountfort
- Photos on Flickr
- Search PapersPast for historical articles on the Canterbury Society of Arts