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The apple pickers
The apple pickers 1944
oil on canvas, 858 x 1118 mm
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, on loan from the Rita Angus Estate
The Riverside community at Upper Moutere, near Nelson, was a sanctuary for pacifists and conscientious objectors in the 1940s. Rita Angus picked apples there in 1944.
She wrote to a friend: ‘Have filled one drawing book with colour notes and sketches of pickers during smoko & lunch hours, and my head is full of possible masterpieces.’
Back in Christchurch, Angus began The apple pickers – the first in a new series of pacifist paintings. In this work, she depicts her Riverside friends as an ideal multicultural community, working together in harmony. She may have intended the female figure on the right, dressed in white, as a self-portrait.
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