Wil­liam Greene (1872-1925) Scene in Sur­rey, 1909 Oil on Can­vas

The Timaru Herald - - COMMENT&OPINION -

This week­end the an­nual Alpine En­ergy Art Awards and South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety Ex­hi­bi­tion opens at the Aigantighe Art Gallery. With over 100 works on show, the ex­hi­bi­tion is an as­sault on the senses, with paint­ings, sculp­tures and jewellery by nu­mer­ous Art So­ci­ety mem­bers along­side guest artists Rachel Rat­ten, Brent Holley, and Noe­line Walker.

The South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety was formed in Au­gust 1895, with the aim to sup­port and pro­mote the arts in South Can­ter­bury. The first pres­i­dent and found­ing mem­ber of the So­ci­ety, Ven. Archdea­con Harper, cap­tured the spirit of the so­ci­ety: “the high­est mis­sion of art ap­pears to be, to teach us how to see and how to love, the real beauty in na­ture or of hu­man life. One man in a hun­dred sees a divine beauty in things, de­picts it and then the ninety nine can see it also.”

An­other found­ing mem­ber was the artist Wil­liam Greene (1872-1925) and two ex­am­ples of his works are on ex­hi­bi­tion along the South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety An­nual Ex­hi­bi­tion.

Greene was born in Aus­tralia and im­mi­grated to Dunedin with this fam­ily in 1874. Greene es­tab­lished a stu­dio in Bank St, Ti­maru in 1894 and in the fol­low­ing year, in part­ner­ship with CHT Stern­dale, he opened an art school and stu­dio in the Royal Ar­cade in Ti­maru.

In 1900 Greene trav­elled to Mel­bourne to study with sculp­tor Charles Richard­son. Then in 1905 he trav­elled to Lon­don to study at the Calderons School of An­i­mal Paint­ing in Kens­ing­ton. He re­turned to teach paint­ing and draw­ing at Ti­maru Boys’ High School and Ti­maru Tech­ni­cal Col­lege. In 1921 he took a po­si­tion at the Christchurch Teach­ers’ Train­ing Col­lege. As a found­ing mem­ber of the South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety Greene be­came a life mem­ber of the So­ci­ety in 1920.

One of Greene’s works on ex­hi­bi­tion is an in­ti­mate oil on can­vas en­ti­tled Scene in Sur­rey, painted in 1909, when Greene was study­ing in Eng­land. It cap­tures an idyl­lic ru­ral scene echo­ing the painters of the French Real­ism move­ment in mid-19th-cen­tury such as JeanFranc¸ois Mil­let and Gus­tave Courbet, who painted or­di­nary peo­ple and the or­di­nary sur­round­ings of ev­ery­day, try­ing to cap­ture a world be­fore it is de­stroyed by the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

Scene in Sur­rey was pur­chased at the An­nual South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ti­maru Tech­ni­cal Col­lege in 1910, by by then Mayor James Craigie with the sug­ges­tion that it go to­wards the es­tab­lish­ment of an art gallery for the peo­ple of Ti­maru. It would be an­other 46 years be­fore this be­came a re­al­ity, when the gifted house and grounds from the Grant fam­ily opened as a pub­lic art gallery. In the same year the so­ci­ety do­nated its art col­lec­tion to the Agiantighe, in­clud­ing Greene’s Scene in Sur­rey, which along­side the Grant’s pri­vate art col­lec­tion, would be­came the nu­cleus of the gallery’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

The gallery is ever grate­ful for the gen­eros­ity of the South Can­ter­bury Art So­ci­ety and the in­di­vid­u­als that have help shape the Gallery dur­ing its rich his­tory.

The so­ci­ety ex­hi­bi­tion runs un­til Oc­to­ber 29.

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