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Local landscape artist honoured at Waikato Museum

3 May 2023

A retrospective of one of the region’s top 20th century artists, Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes will open at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato in Hamilton on Friday 12 May 2023.

German-born Jewish artist Margot Philips (1902 – 1988) found refuge in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1938 and produced a large body of work during the 1960s and 1970s.

“Margot Philips is one of Waikato’s most distinctive artists,” said Liz Cotton, Director Museum and Arts.

“We are proud to be highlighting her work and showcasing these evocative landscape paintings which reflect our country’s landscape through a unique modernist perspective.”

Developed by Waikato Museum curator Dr Nadia Gush, Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes includes works from Waikato Museum’s extensive collection alongside paintings on loan from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the Chartwell Collection, and the Fletcher Trust Collection.

“This survey exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see the breadth of an exceptional Waikato artist’s career, and through her works, to experience this place which she came to call home,” said Dr Gush.

“It gives a point of entry into the life of a twentieth-century migrant, a modern independent woman, a Jewish person in exile, and an Aotearoa New Zealand painter. Her works present a landscape inseparable from these experiences, combining to mark her perspective as tangata tiriti.”

Through lush Waikato farmland and parched South Island hills, Philips discovered the means to express her distinctive post-war vision despite not having any formal art training. She was aged in her 50s when she began experimenting with painting and, by the early 1960s, had attended nine summer schools under the guidance of legendary Aotearoa New Zealand artist Colin McCahon.

Renowned for his large-scale modernist works, McCahon was a catalyst in Philips’ development and a life-long champion of her work. Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes includes Philips’ 1962 oil painting ‘Landscape with blue-green bach’ which McCahon acquired for his personal collection.

Despite her standing in the national art scene, Hamiltonians were often challenged by Philips’ landscapes during the 1960s and 1970s. Her contemporary experimentation and distinctive use of colour was a confronting contrast to the expressive realism that was popular at the time.

During her lifetime, Philips achieved four solo exhibitions in significant regional galleries and numerous group shows. As an inaugural 21st century retrospective, Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes provides modern audiences the privilege of enjoying this body of work with fresh eyes.

Of This Place: Margot Philips’ Landscapes is open daily from 10am to 5pm at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 17 September 2023. Entry is free. Find out more:


Image credit

Margot Philips, 'The Nearby Hill' 1975. Oil on canvas board, 658 x 748 mm. Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1977


Please note

For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.