Rhona Haszard was one of a number of ex-patriot women artists whose work significantly influenced the visual arts in New Zealand in the first part of the twentieth century. Others included Frances Hodgkins, May Smith, Maud Burge, and Gwen Knight.
Haszard was born in Thames in 1901. She was named Alice Gwendoline Rhona, but was known as Rhona. Her father, Henry Haszard, was a surveyor with the Lands and Survey Department.
During Rhona Haszard’s childhood, the family moved to Hokitika and later to Invercargill. Haszard showed artistic talent at an early age, and shortly after 1910 took lessons with Hokitika artist Hugh Scott. When the family moved to Invercargill she attended Southland Girls High School.
Haszard’s mother, Alice, died in 1918, and the following year the family moved to Christchurch. From mid 1919, Haszard studied at Canterbury College School of Art, and in 1922 she exhibited with the Canterbury and Auckland art societies.
At the end of that year she married Ronald McKenzie, a teacher at the Canterbury College School of Art. She began exhibiting under the name Rhona McKenzie. The use of this name ended two years later when, in a radical step for the time, the couple divorced.
Haszard married again at the end of 1925. Her new husband, Herbert Leslie Greener, had been born in South Africa and served as an officer in the Indian army before heading south, first to Australia and then New Zealand, where he’d taken classes at Canterbury College School of Art.
After marrying Greener, Rhona Haszard continued to exhibit under her maiden name – unusual for a woman artist in those days.
Haszard and Greener left New Zealand soon after their marriage. They travelled to Sark in the Channel Islands where Greener’s parents lived, then explored parts of northern France. In Paris they studied together at the Académie Julian, and used to cycle through the countryside, stopping frequently to paint.
Haszard worked with a post-impressionist technique, using thick pigment, bright decorative colour, and flattened forms. Morning Calm, Camaret, with its crisp, simplified landscape forms, is one example of the style she developed while overseas.
By the end of 1927, Haszard was becoming noted in both France and Britain, and was exhibiting regularly in group shows. She and Greener then moved to Egypt where he had accepted a job at Victoria College, Alexandria, tutoring art and French.
The following summer, Haszard had an accident that forced her to go to London for extensive treatment.
In December 1928, she held a solo exhibition at Claridges Hotel in Alexandria. It was a survey of her work to date, including some pieces from her time in New Zealand. In March 1930, she and Greener held a joint exhibition at the Gallery Paul in Cairo.
It was 1931 when the thirty year-old Rhona fell to her death from the Victoria College Tower, where she’d been sketching. Greener brought a memorial collection of her work to New Zealand two years later. It toured the country causing great excitement, and establishing her place in the art history of this country.
The following publications may be found on the Discovery Centre bookshelves or in Te Aka Matua Library and Information Centre, Level 4. Photographs of Te Papa collection items may be ordered from Images on Level 4.
Drayton, Joanne. (2002). Rhona Haszard : an experimental expatriate New Zealand artist. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press and UNITEC.
Kirker, Anne. ‘Haszard, Alice Gwendoline Rhona, 1901–1931’ (1998). In Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol. 4. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs and Auckland University Press
Stanley R.D. and Stanley, J.C. ‘Haszard, Henry Douglas Morpeth, 1862–1938’ (1993). In Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol. 2. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs.
Other works by Rhona Haszard in Te Papa’s collection: