Author(s): Warren Feeney
The Canterbury Society of Arts domin-ated the cultural life of Canterbury for nearly a century, and played a vital role in the development of New Zealand art. Whereas art societies are often assumed to be conservative and reactionary institutions that failed to nurture the work of younger or more radical artists, this fascinating and entertaining history reveals a different story. The CSA was formed in 1880 by Euro-pean settlers resolute in their vision to nurture serious New Zealand artistic talent. From the start, the institution emerged as a vital and sometimes uncompromisingly progressive arts organisation that had, over its life, a total of 2259 working members. For almost 100 years the CSA provided valued support for the arts, exhibiting the early work of generations of leading New Zealand artists, including Petrus van der Velden, Raymond McIntyre, Margaret Stoddart, Rhona Haszard, Frances Hodgkins, W. A. Sutton, Colin McCahon, Michael Smither, Neil Dawson, Andrew Drummond and Pauline Rhodes. Directors and committees came and went, numerous obstacles and controversies were encountered, yet the CSA secured Christchurch’s reputation as the artistic capital of New Zealand in the middle years of the 20th century. CSA: The Radical, the Reactionary and the Canterbury Society of Arts 1800–1996 invites readers to reconsider the history of the arts in New Zealand.