Top Shows

TVNZ Heartland

Lovely Rita

About the show

Rita Angus uncompromisingly stood alone among her generation. Surrounded by secrecy even after her death, at last her story can be told.

Lovely Rita is a documentary celebrating New Zealand painter Rita Angus.

She lived and worked at a time in New Zealand when to be a full time artist was not only unusual, it was hardly considered to be a serious occupation. Her paintings were undervalued during her lifetime but appreciated by a small, informed group of supporters including the composer Douglas Lilburn, with whom she maintained a life long close friendship.

Over 300 letters from Rita to Douglas were in his possession when he died recently and these form a moving and sometimes startling personal commentary from the artist herself which illuminates a lifetime of painting.

Though Angus died in 1970, filmmaker Gaylene Preston has found a colourful collection of friends and family who knew and loved Rita, while Angus biographer Jill Trevelyan provides a fresh intelligence on the Rita Angus life story.

Young artists share enthusiasm for her work and the audience is taken on the occasional jaunt through an iconic work, such as 'Central Otago' and 'Rutu'.

Loren Horsley reads Rita's letters to Douglas and evokes young Rita on screen while Donogh Rees reads Rita's Thorndon letters, as her glorious paintings articulate this sensitive portrait of one woman's struggle to illuminate her world.

In an age when to us women born into greater freedom having a family and a creative career is not unusual, it is salutary to be reminded how hard this position we now take for granted was fought for.

Rita Angus, this staunch, unbending, sometimes prickly, dedicated woman gave us those lovely paintings. Our cultural life is richer for having her with us once.

Lovely Rita celebrates that.

Lovely Rita starts Saturday 30th October at 6pm on TVNZ Heartland.

For further screenings, visit the TVNZ Heartland programme schedule here.