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