A Goddess of Mercy


A Goddess of Mercy  1945-47
oil on canvas, 866 x 615
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, purchased 1957
See this work on the Christchurch Art Gallery's website


Rita Angus painted A Goddess of Mercy as a tribute to her sister Edna, who died suddenly in 1940. The pattern of the goddess’s skirt comes from one of Edna’s favourite outfits.

More generally, the goddess paintings celebrate a mystical female world, which Angus presents as an alternative to the destructive male culture of wartime.

Angus marries Eastern and Western symbolism in this work. The young woman recalls the figure of the Virgin Mary in Christian art. The painting’s title, on the other hand, evokes the Buddhist divinity Kuan Yin, who represents mercy and compassion. Angus was deeply drawn to Buddhism at this time.


> Back to Pacifism and the goddesses 1944-53


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