Rita Angus: An Artist's Life

Jill Trevelyan

Rita Angus: An Artist's Life


Revised edition of the award-winning biography of one of New Zealand's most famous women artists

Jill Trevelyan won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009 for this magnificent biography of one of New Zealand’s leading 20th century artists. Now back in print, this revised edition brings the book up to date with new assessments of Angus and in the context of the Rita Angus exhibition to be held at Te Papa late in 2021.

Rita Angus was a pioneer of modern painting during the 1930s and 1940s. More than 100 years after her birth, works such as Rutu (1951), Central Otago (1940), and Portrait of Betty Curnow (1941–1942) are national icons. While Angus is perhaps New Zealand’s best-loved painter, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before this acclaimed and revelatory book.

Jill Trevelyan traces Angus’s life, from her childhood in Napier and Palmerston North to her death in Wellington in 1970. Drawing on a wealth of archives and letters, she brings to life Rita Angus the person: highly articulate and full of zest, intellectually curious and forthright in her attitudes and emotions, powerfully committed to her pacifist and feminist beliefs and dedicated, above all, to life as an artist.

Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life is generously illustrated with more than 150 artworks and private photographs to bring Angus – her private struggles and public reputation and her greatest legacy, her art – to complex, colourful life.


Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life in the April issue of NZ Listener, “… the first and only bio of Rita Angus, feminist, pacifist, socialist, has been juiced and spruced by Jill Trevelyan … It’s stacked with the works of one of our best-loved painters …”

About the author

Jill Trevelyan is a Wellington art historian and curator. She is the editor of Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters (Te Papa Press, 2004) and the co-author of Rita Angus: Live to Paint & Paint to Live (Random House, 2001). Her biography of Peter McLeavey won the book of the year award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Publication date: April 2021
Extent: 448 pages
Format: Flexibind
ISBN: 978-0-9951338-2-2