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New Zealand Art - Doris Lusk

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Doris Lusk is one of a small group of important New Zealand painters who emerged during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Throughout a highly productive painting career that spanned five decades, Lusk explored both landscape painting and portraiture.

Issue information

Born in Dunedin in 1916, Lusk trained at the Dunedin King Edward Technical College from 1934 to 1939. During the '40s she spent time painting in Central Otago and in the Nelson region with another great artist, Colin McCahon.

In the early '40s Lusk moved to Christchurch and married Dermot Holland. She raised three children while continuing to paint and teach pottery part time at Risingholme. In 1947 she exhibited with an association called ‘The Group’, like-minded artists wishing to break with tradition.

During the '60s Lusk began experimenting with the softness of watercolours and in 1967 she won the National Bank Art Award for a watercolour portrait of mother and child. The previous year she had been appointed to the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts, where she taught until her retirement in 1981.

Shortly after her death in 1990 she was posthumously honoured with the Governor General Art Award for her outstanding contribution to New Zealand art.

This stamp issue was a recognition and celebration of a wonderful New Zealand artist. It featured four quite different examples of her work spanning the period of 1948 to 1982.

The first, The Lake, Tuai, 1948, is oil on gesso on textured board. The second, The Pumping Station, 1958, is oil on newspaper on board. The third, Arcade Awning, St. Marks Square, Venice (2), 1976, is pencil and watercolour on paper on card. The fourth, Tuam St. II, 1982, is acrylic, pencil and coloured pencil on canvas.

These paintings had been chosen for the stamp issue to provide an illustration of the various different artistic styles used by Lusk - and their contribution to her unique place in the history of New Zealand art.

Product Listing for New Zealand Art - Doris Lusk

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Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'The Lake, Tuai (1948)gummed stamp.

During 1948 Doris Lusk visited friends living in the harsh remote landscape of Kaitawa, situated inland from Wairoa and as a result of her time there completed a small, but important, number of paintings relating to the vast Waikaremoana Hydro-electric Power Scheme. The Lake, Tuai, one of four Waikaremoana paintings, generates an uneasy feeling. This is partly due to the surreal white and green colour of the man made lake, situated in the Waitaretaheke Valley, and partly the result of a feeling of gloom cast across the whole scene – leaving the viewer with an overwhelming sense of isolation.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'The Pumping Station (1958)' gummed stamp.

Doris Lusk's most well known painting is The Pumping Station, 1958. Initially the building itself was designed to pump water from underground artesian wells and today, well over a century later, is an outlet for recycled materials. One underlying strength of The Pumping Station, 1958, lies in the compositional cohesion achieved through the careful interplay of diagonals, firstly, taken from the roof structure of the centralised building and repeated to create the folds of the golden yellow Port Hills behind. Doris Lusk was very familiar with the building as it is situated at the intersection of England and Tuam Streets in Christchurch close to where she lived.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Arcade Awning St Mark's Square Venice (2) (1976)' gummed stamp.

The Arcade Awning St Mark's Square Venice (2), 1976 is one of a series of watercolours inspired by Lusk's visit to Italy, while on study leave from the University of Canterbury during 1974-5. Of the ten works in the series, completed on her return to New Zealand the following year, three depict awnings in the Piazza Maggiore, Bologna and the other seven are of awnings in St Mark's Square, Venice. It was always Lusk's intention that the series be viewed together (all 10 are now in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery) highlighting not only the theatrical character of the raised and lowered curtains, but also to emphasise the repetitive nature of the actual awnings as they appear in St Mark's Square.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Tuam St II, (1982)' gummed stamp.

'A revelation' is how, in 1979, Doris Lusk described the sight of a partly demolished Christchurch building bathed in late afternoon sunlight. Inspired, she photographed it and from this experience produced her first Demolition painting. Captivated by the possibilities of this unusual subject Doris Lusk went on to produce a substantial series consisting of watercolours, acrylics and collages. Three years later, the completed series was exhibited under the collective title Constructed Demolitions – a title that aptly described her working methods.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $5.20

Technical information

Date of issue: 16 June 1999
Number of stamps: Four
Denominations and designs: 40c The Lake, Tuai (1948); $1.00 The Pumping STation (1958); $1.50 Arcade Awning, St. Marks Square, Venice (2), (1976); and $1.80 Tuam St. II (1982)
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Hamish Thompson, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 44.29mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Paper type: 103gsm red phosphor stamp paper
Perforation gauge: 14
Number of stamps per sheet: 100
Cost of unaddressed first day cover: $5.20
Special blocks: Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps. Colour blocks ('traffic lights') were included in plate blocks. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 15 June 1999.