Evelyn Page

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About Evelyn Page

Born in 1899, Evelyn Margaret Polson was the youngest of seven children. Her parents John and Elizabeth Polson were straight-laced, "Victorian" as Evelyn described them. Although this was a strictly religious upbringing, she was encouraged to foster a love of music, art and writing from a young age.

In 1915, 15-year-old Evelyn joined the Canterbury College School of Arts, where her formal training began and she would remain until 1922. She quickly proved herself to be a talented student, receiving numerous accolades and prizes. This was of course a formative time for the young artist, who in addition to learning from such teachers as Margaret Stoddart, Leonard Booth and Cecil Kelly, forged a number of lifelong friendships and connections with her peers including Ngaio Marsh and Viola Macmillan Brown. She became a member of the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1922.

For a period after this, Page focused on music, studying piano with Ernest Empson. Awareness of this musical talent deepens an appreciation her paintings, which have a musical sensitivity to them. Page's affinity for finding rhythm in composition and colour gives many of her works a deep visual musicality. It was also through Empson that she met Frederick Page. In 1931, one of the few works Evelyn completed was a very fine oil portrait of this, her future husband.

Evelyn was one of the founding members of the New Zealand Society of Artists and taught art part-time at Christchurch Girls' School before going to join Frederick in London in 1937. The period that followed was one of exceptional and prolific creative output for her. Over this time, the couple built their network of friends and fellow artists in London, and travelled around Europe.

Upon their return to New Zealand, Frederick and Evelyn were married and found a home in Governors Bay, where they lived for several years. They had two children, Sebastian and Anna. During her time living there, and over the course of a number of painting holidays away from home in the summer (a tradition she maintained throughout her life), Evelyn mastered the pure treatment of colour in her work.

After Frederick was appointed to set up the School of Music at Victoria University in 1945, the family moved to Wellington. Evelyn and the children lived in Pukerua Bay; she used to travel into the city to visit Frederick and to paint - the city as seen from the studio of her car, and a number of portraits. Her wonderful expressive portraits of friends and peers, interior still lifes, and cityscapes now stand out as a form of protest in response to mainstream modernism. At a time when New Zealand modernism favoured landscapes, this was the moment when Page consciously turned away from imagining "landscape[s] with too few lovers".

The Pages later returned to Europe, including to London and a summer school in Salzburg which Evelyn attended. But it was the "clear, strong colours waiting to be put on canvas" of Wellington which captured her.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Evelyn's work assumed a quieter, more interior focus on still lifes and compositions. Living in Waikanae and suffering from arthritis, a slower rhythm sustained her in the final decades of her work. She died in 1988. Few 20th century artists were as prolific or had such an impact as Evelyn Page. She was a visionary, and her works possess a refreshing vivacity of spirit which have stood the test of time.