Orchard with Plum Tree


Landscape. Lower edge of canvas, area of blue between vertical margins. Right of centre, broken vertical line crossed with thin bar of red at near mid-point. Lower left diagonal element tips to upper left side margin. Between the vertical and diagonal, the thin paint is applied with more colourful areas to the left and paler areas to the right with some central red brown vertical strokes. Upper left horizontal margin, a soft magenta shape above a short brown vertical.

1969 1970
Object type
Medium and materials
oil on canvas on board
Place Made
Bry-sur-Marne, France

LL dark brush point H Scales

LR blue brush point H Scales (barely legible)


Purchased by original owner, Miss Tait, from Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, July 1976, when it toured there from the Auckland City Art Gallery exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976

General notes

Title and date supplied by the artist for Auckland City Art Gallery exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976. Listed as artwork no. 37 in this exhibition.                                              

Martin Gayford writing about Kano Sansetsu’s Old Plum (1646), comprising four sliding door panels, may be read as equally relevant to Scales’s Orchard with Plum Tree [3]: “… no distance, no recession – and yet the impression of volume, growth and space is stunning.” – Hockney, David and Martin Gayford, A History of Pictures, Thames & Hudson, 2016, pg 280 

Central ‘V’ shape recalls masts and derricks of earlier work such as Shipping, Wellington Harbour [BC128] and Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall] [BC030].

Images taken from photographic transparency slides.


Foreword by Colin McCahon, Helen F V Scales exhibition catalogue, Auckland City Art Gallery, November 1975

“We hope this exhibition will tell people of a lifetime of painting, from her sometimes didactic early work to the poetry of her plum trees [BC071-BC075, BC077] and the portraits [BC065, BC066, BC120].

The beauty of her vision comes from her thinking about painting and from the grace and care she gives to her work. Without this, how could the plum trees have grown and the portraits become so real?”

‘Flora Scales Work on Show’ by T. J. McNamara, New Zealand Herald, 9 January 1976

“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.”

'Art award a lottery for losers' by James Ross, The Week, 16 July 1976, pg 17

“In the 1969-70 series, Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077], there is an eastern almost zen-like approach to nature.”

‘A Personal Reminiscence’ by Gretchen Albrecht, Art New Zealand, issue 37, 1985, pg 52

“Also displayed along with the self-portraits was a group of Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077] paintings, exquisitely beautiful in their blushes and strokes of paint; edges dissolving and reassembling in planes of colour, and revealing an intelligent understanding of post-cubist ideas derived from Cézanne’s principles of organising pictorial space. My response to the poetic vision of these paintings was immediate and intense, and I left the Gallery driven by an urgent desire to meet and speak to the woman who had painted them.”

'A Friend of Flora' by Gretchen Albrecht, Flora Scales, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018, pp 39-43

“My response to these self portraits [Portrait 2 [BC065], Portrait 3 [BC066], Portrait 1 [BC120]] and a poetic group of landscapes all titled ‘ Orchard and Plum Tree’ [BC071-BC075, BC077], with their strokes of paint dissolving and reassembling edges and planes of colour, was immediate and intense. I left the gallery driven by an urgent desire to meet and speak to the woman who had painted them...For me she was living proof that painting could stand at the core of a woman’s life and sustain her through anything. She was humble and unambitious for herself but always hungry for painting knowledge, which ended in her 98th year. I am richer for having known and loved her.”