Mina Arndt (1885-1926) : the making of a New Zealand artist
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Mina Arndt (1885-1926) belongs to the generation of New Zealand born artists, who established early patterns of professional art practice in this country. The events of her life show how Arndt followed career strategies similar to other New Zealand artists of her time, but the cultural, social and political contexts, which shaped her work and professional conduct also set her apart from her contemporaries. Min a Arndt was born into the sophisticated Jewish community of colonial Dunedin. Her family background and upbringing in the liberal climate of late 19th-century Dunedin ensured for her above average educational opportunities and first nurtured her professional ambition. The utilitarian focus and limited scope of professional art training available in New Zealand made it necessary for Arndt and many others like her to further her studies abroad. In 1907, she travelled to Europe in the company of her mother and two sisters. The interests and movements of her family determined to a considerable degree the nature of her training there, while the timing of her arrival in England largely isolated her from contemporary trends in modern art. Throughout her years abroad, Arndt studied with artists whose art practice was considered up-to-date, but not avant-garde. The first of Arndt's significant male mentors was Frank Brangwyn, who encouraged her drawing talent and her experimentation with printmaking and other media. From London, Arndt moved to Newlyn to study with Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes. There Arndt extended her skills as a figure painter. In Berlin, it was not only her encounter with Lavis Corinth, but also her association with Jewish artists Hermann Struck and Julie Wolfthorn, which significantly influenced the work and professional ambition of Mina Arndt. Min a Arndt returned to New Zealand in 1915 with the aim of establishing herself as a professional artist in her home country. Trying to adjust to the conservative cultural and social climate of early 20th-century New Zealand, Arndt's art practice fragmented to include still life and landscape, genres which she paid little attention to while studying abroad. She married in 1917 and moved to remote Motueka and her later work illustrates some of the artistic isolation she faced there. Compromising much of her early professional ambition, Arndt became the kind of woman artist this country was willing to accommodate. By employing a feminist mode of enquiry, this account of Arndt's life aims to contribute to a more inclusive history of New Zealand's complex cultural history and artistic heritage.