The Bolton Street cemetery 1968-69

One of Rita Angus’s favourite places in Wellington was the tranquil Bolton Street cemetery, close to her home in Thorndon. In the late 1960s, she was horrified to learn that the cemetery would be demolished to make way for a new motorway.

As the bulldozers moved in, Angus visited the cemetery every weekend with her sketchbook. She was fascinated by the shapes made by the uprooted tombstones and began a series of paintings. ‘This is subject matter not likely to be repeated in my lifetime,’ she wrote.

Rita Angus died on 25 January 1970, leaving most of her cemetery paintings unfinished. The paintings and sketchbooks show Angus’s continued productivity in the final months of her life and give an insight into her painstaking technique.

All artworks are reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Rita Angus.