“Despite their small scale the works look best seen from a considerable distance. Most appealing are some anemones painted in 1968 [BC051], and a charming Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077] painted quite recently.”
Still life. Red, blue and white anemones in pale vase. Pink, red and blue elements at lower edge. Vase on white ground. Flower heads against ochre upper third of canvas. A roughly shaped rectangle of blue and white paint to left of centre upper margin beside a red flower head.
LL blue brush point H Sca (signature partially illegible)
LL overpainted ochre brush point H Scales
Verso UL painting board circular yellow sticker (not in artist’s hand) St Ives 1968 29 30 (29 crossed out)
Verso UL painting board pencil (not in artist’s hand) 30
Verso Lower Centre framing mat board label Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2006-0007-4, Anemones, Scales, Flora (24 May 1887 - 11 January 1985), Circa 1969, Oil on paper on board, Image 317 227, Frame 405 315 30, W-3111-C276
Verso framing mat board framer's label
Purchased by M. T. Woollaston from Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, July 1976, when it toured there from the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976
Purchased by Sir Ivor Richardson from M. T. Woollaston’s estate after Woollaston’s death, 30 September 1998
Sold by auction at Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, 22.03.2006, Lot 105
Purchased by Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, with Ellen Eames Collection funds, 2006
Pinholes evident centre left side and top left corner (see detail images 3 and 4)
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Title and first date supplied by the artist for Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976. Listed as artwork no. 30 in this exhibition. Second date taken from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, documentation.
Medium taken from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand, documentation. Publication The Back of the Painting: Secrets and stories from art conservation (Waters, Linda, Sarah Hillary and Jenny Sherman, Te Papa Press, Wellington, New Zealand, pg 180) describes the medium as oil on cardboard.
First and second verso inscriptions are directly on the unframed painting board and were documented by B. de Lange at Toss Woollaston’s home in Riwaka, New Zealand, late 1980s. The number 30 denotes the artworks number in the exhibition Helen F V Scales, Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, 1975-1976. The third and fourth verso inscriptions were taken from the framed backing mat board and documented by B. de Lange at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, 2019.
Pale vase resembles that used in Mimosa and Fruit [BC050] from similar time.
Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, in conversation with B. de Lange, 03.05.2019, “…she was a Modernist with conviction.”
Excerpt from Toss Woollaston's essay for B. de Lange, 1992, “When I saw the 1973 [sic, 1975] exhibition of her work at the Peter McLeavey Gallery in Wellington I revised my estimation of her as an inveterate student. The pictures were all small, beautiful and sensitive evidences of an artist’s personality. Nobody else could have painted them. I would dearly have liked to acquire one or both of her self-portraits with the head tilted to one side not only laterally but in depth, so that your vision moved with it in deep space – but they were gone before I got to the exhibition. I bought a picture of anemones instead – the one I found I remembered best after a day or two. It is still as beautiful as when I bought it.”
Excerpt from Toss Woollaston’s A Grievous Error, Unpublished Autobiographical Notes (Museum of New Zealand Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand, reg. no. CA000062/001/0002, chapter 10, pg 126), on his purchase of Anemones, “I have never regretted it. All her sensitiveness and appreciation of life is there, the hovering vibrancy of the stroke that hesitates to alight – but, when it does, alights faultlessly. I wish I could paint like that."
Jennifer Twist, librarian, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, correspondence with B. de Lange, 25.06.2015, says these notes are thought to be one of Woollaston’s attempts to rewrite Sage Tea: An Autobiography (Collins, Auckland, New Zealand, 1980) in which he acknowledges his mistaken report of Scales’s death in his 1960 lecture to Friends of the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand.
Art and Objects from New Zealand's National Museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 2008 Diary, Te Papa Press, Wellington, 2007, August, pg 72
Waters, Linda, Sarah Hillary and Jenny Sherman, The Back of the Painting: Secrets and stories from art conservation, Te Papa Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2021, pp 181, 182, 185 (colour) © Te Papa
‘Flora Scales Work on Show’ by T. J. McNamara, New Zealand Herald, 9 January 1976
Catalogue essay by Jill Trevelyan, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, 2006
"For Woollaston, the encounter with Scales was a godsend, confirming him in his direction as a modern painter. He never met her again, but in 1976 he visited the touring retrospective exhibition of her work initiated by Colin McCahon. ‘All those little pictures, getting so big and strong (most of them) while you look’, he wrote to the art historian Ron O’Reilly, ‘So feelingly painted, while so theoretical too ... It made me wonder why after all we paint such big pictures these days, if all that can be done with small ones.’² Woollaston purchased an oil painting as a memento of the exhibition – the sumptuous small oil Lot 105 Anemones c.1968-1970 [BC051]. For many years it hung in pride of place over the dining table at the Woollaston home at Riwaka, adjacent to the space Toss reserved for his own latest work. Later, after Woollaston’s death, it was purchased for the collection.
² Undated letter [15 July 1976] in Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters, ed Jill Trevelyan, Te Papa Press, 2004, p. 385"
'High Quality Work Does Well in Auction' by John Daly-Peoples, National Business Review, 12 May 2006, pg 58
'Flora Scales, Anemones' by Linda Waters from Waters, Linda, Sarah Hillary and Jenny Sherman, The Back of the Painting: Secrets and stories from art conservation, Te Papa Press, Wellington, New Zealand, 2021, pp 180-185 © Te Papa
"This little oil painting really captures my attention, primarily because it is large in gesture despite its unprepossessing scale. Flora Scales applied the paint in ‘bravura’ fashion —broadly, quickly and with confidence — and with larger brushes than one would expect for such a small piece … Closer examination shows it to have been painted twice … Several features reveal the suspected chronology, not least the back of the work … Essentially, it indicates that the painting was discarded by the artist for a period of time and used as a work surface, after which it was later repainted ... The fact that the work was repainted is seen in the second signature and, after a closer look at other features under the microscope, in an additional wash of yellow ochre over the background that has filled some of the pinholes in the paint surface."
Essay by Toss Woollaston, 1992, reproduced with the kind permission of the Toss Woollaston Trust, May 2021
Detail photo 1 by Linda Waters © Te Papa
Detail photo 2 by Linda Waters © Te Papa
Detail photo 3 by Linda Waters © Te Papa
Verso photo by Maarten Holl © Te Papa