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Adele Mary Younghusband (1878-1969) Two Maori Wahine

oil on canvas, signed and dated 1928. 595 x 445. Exhibited: Adele Younghusband, Whangarei Art Museum, Whangarei, 2007 - 2008. Ferner Galleries, Auckland, 2007. Illustrated: Spring Catalogue, Ferner Galleries, 2007, p. 78-79. Described by some as a New Zealand surrealist, Adele Younghusband was a woman of strong beliefs who painted angels and Maori myths as well as conventional landscapes and still lifes. Adela Mary Roche was born at Ngaroto in the Waikato where Hungerford Roche, her Dublin-born father, was the first Pakeha to farm Her sister, Fanny Osborne, was a botanical artist. Learning her trade of photographic retouching from pictorialist Harry Gaze in Hamilton, she studied painting with Horace Moore-Jones before marrying Gisborne grocer Frank Younghusband in 1905 and bearing three children. Unmistakeably modern in her outlook, she divorced her husband in 1917 and moved to Whangarei to open her own photographic business, becoming famous there as the first woman to bob her hair. Daughter Joyce’s death precipitated a move to Dargaville in 1927 but, by 1930, she had returned to city life and opened a photographic studio in Devonport, Auckland. For a decade between 1926 and 1936, Maori subjects predominated in her work. This can be attributed to her time in Northland, with its large non-urbanised M?ori population. Unlike depictions of M?ori by such artists as Charles F. Goldie, Younghusband’s work demonstrated a connection to earlier women artists, such as Frances Hodgkins and Mina Arndt, who portrayed Maori in a more sympathetic, less anthropological vein. Five watercolours of Maori myths from 1936 are in the collection of the Waikato Museum of Art and History along with an oil painting entitled The Poi Dancer (1929). Other significant works with Maori subjects include a mural in Hamilton’s Anglican Chapel of St Anne, another in its Theosophical Society building and Tane, God of the Forests (1929), which was commissioned from the artist to hang in the newly constructed Mahinarangi Meeting House at Tarangawaewae. Works by Adele Younghusband are held in most institutional gallery collections in New Zealand, the largest group is made up of the 24 paintings she gifted to the Whangarei Art Museum in 1954. The collection now contains 130 works by the artist, including photographs, prints and drawings. Maori Wahine shows two women dressed in traditional korowai and prominently displaying precious pounamu hei tiki. The elder of the two is seated before woven baskets holding kamara for a hanga and behind is the open doorway of a wharenui, with a pataka (food store) and palisade beyond. In contrast to the images of smiling wahine from an earlier period, these women look wary, their gaze fixed on someone or something beyond the viewer. Standing proud and erect, the younger of the two holds a mere pounamu in her right hand. Rather than relics of a dying race, these women are represented as symbols of Maori strength and hope for the future. Linda Tyler