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CUP book

CSA: The radical, the reactionary and the Canterbury Society of Arts 1880–1996

20 November 2023

By Warren Feeney


November 2011
$35 (was $49.95)
224pp, jacketed hardback
265 x 240mm, full colour throughout
ISBN: 978-1-877257-94-0

The Canterbury Society of Arts dominated the cultural life of Canterbury for nearly a century, and played a vital role in the development of New Zealand art. Where 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.

CSA The radical, the reactionary and the Canterbury Society of Arts 1880-1996

The CSA was formed in 1880 by European 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 in the Canterbury Society of Arts 1800–1968 invites readers to reconsider the history of the arts in New Zealand.

'Feeney is a capable, erudite and engaging storyteller, weaving a history of great significance in understanding the cultural development of modern New Zealand … Feeney's book is a treasure-trove of archive photographs and reproductions of art, and not incidentally helps to fill out the broader history of Canterbury art.' Andrew Paul Wood, Landfall Review Online

'… a large, handsome, and generously illustrated volume.' Geoff Adams, Otago Daily Times

Warren Feeney is an arts commentator, writer and historian living in Christchurch. From 1999 to 2010 he was director of the Centre of Contemporary Art (COCA Gallery), previously known as the Canterbury Society of Arts. Feeney completed an MA in Art History at the University of Canterbury in 1996 and a PhD at the University of Otago in 2009. He has researched and written on New Zealand art in academic and popular publications since the late 1980s, including the Journal of New Zealand Art HistoryArt New Zealand, the New Zealand Journal of HistoryLandfall and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, and the Press.

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