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oil on canvas, 715 x 561 mm
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Purchased 1992 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
This artwork is featured in Te Papa's Collections Online
Rita Angus worked on Rutu for six years. After finishing the eyes and hair, she wrote to a friend: 'You may understand what relief I felt … I relax now from years of tension, knowing I've done the most difficult & important work for me.'
Rutu - with her blonde hair, blue eyes, and dark skin - represents an idealised mix of races. Angus felt strongly that New Zealand's future lay in the merging of Pacific and European cultures.
Rutu is also a symbol of peace - a Pacific madonna that Angus hoped would be a model for all humanity.
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