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Exhibition pays tribute to landscape artist


An exhibition to honour the legendary artist is now on at the Waikato Museum, Hamilton. (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, May 5, 2023

A retrospective of one of the region’s top 20th-century artists, ‘Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes’ will open at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato in Hamilton today, Friday 12 May 2023.

Early Life of the Artist
German-born Jewish artist Margot Philips (1902 – 1988) found refuge in New Zealand in 1938 and produced a large body of work during the 1960s and 1970s.

Philips left Germany in 1935 to live in London, before travelling in 1958 to New Zealand to follow her brother Kurt Philips and his wife Trude, who opened Hamilton’s first restaurant, Vienna Café. The restaurant was known for its potato salad, eel, goulash and good coffee. The family faced discrimination when World War II broke out, as they were classified as “enemy aliens” and required to report weekly to the police. Philips worked in the restaurant upon her arrival in New Zealand, and through waiting tables, Philips became friends with Te Puea Herangi (Princess Te Puea).

The artist Margot Philips (Photo Supplied)

About the Exhibition
“Margot Philips is one of Waikato’s most distinctive artists,” said Liz Cotton, Director Museum and Arts. “We are proud to highlight her work and showcase these evocative landscape paintings which reflect our country’s landscape through a unique modernist perspective.”
Developed by Waikato Museum curator Dr Nadia Gush, ‘Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes includes works from Waikato Museum’s extensive collection alongside paintings on loan from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the Chartwell Collection, and the Fletcher Trust Collection.
“This survey exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see the breadth of an exceptional Waikato artist’s career, and through her works, to experience this place which she came to call home,” said Dr Gush.

“It gives a point of entry into the life of a twentieth-century migrant, a modern independent woman, a Jewish person in exile, and an Aotearoa New Zealand painter. Her works present a landscape inseparable from these experiences, combining to mark her perspective as Tangata tiriti.”

Immense talent

Through lush Waikato farmland and parched South Island hills, Philips discovered the means to express her distinctive post-war vision despite not having any formal art training.

She was in her fifties when she began experimenting with painting and, by the early 1960s, had attended nine summer schools under the guidance of legendary Aotearoa New Zealand artist Colin McCahon. Renowned for his large-scale modernist works, McCahon was a catalyst in Philips’ development and a life-long champion of her work. Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes includes Philips’ 1962 oil painting ‘Landscape with blue-green bach’ which McCahon acquired for his personal collection.
Despite her standing in the national art scene, Philips’ landscapes often challenged Hamiltonians during the 1960s and 1970s. Her contemporary experimentation and distinctive use of colour were a confronting contrast to the expressive realism that was popular at the time.
During her lifetime, Philips achieved four solo exhibitions in significant regional galleries and numerous group shows. As an inaugural 21st-century retrospective, Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes allows modern audiences to enjoy this body of work with fresh eyes.
‘Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes’ is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 17 September 2023. Entry is free.

It offers a rare opportunity to see the breadth of this exceptional Waikato artist’s career, and through her works, to experience this place that she came to call home.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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