Artists Dame Louise Henderson

Dame Louise Henderson

b. 1902-1994, France (Lived in Aotearoa, New Zealand)

Dame Louise Henderson was one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most innovative abstract artists of the 20th century. Born in Paris in 1902, she emigrated to New Zealand in 1925 where she settled in Canterbury. Her earliest works offered thoughtful and detailed observations of her new environment and she began to develop the hallmarks of her practice with a focus on the structural unity of inter-relating forms and spaces, and an expressive use of colour. As her work progressed, she exhibited with influential art association The Group in the 1930s.

By the mid-20th century, she was disrupting the New Zealand art scene by working in a distinctively international, modernist style. She challenged the predominantly British, post-war narrative occurring in New Zealand art during the period. She boldly investigated colour and form in new manners of abstraction, as she observed people, nature, and life in her paintings.

In the catalogue for her retrospective exhibition, 2019, published by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, the curators noted, “Despite the seemingly dramatic shifts in style, which have been too easily dismissed as a dependency on different international art movements, Henderson’s oeuvre maintains a rigorous consistency. She sought to convey the essence of her subject through a complex visual language of layered and interlocking shapes” p. 14. This is shown as Henderson’s paintings embraced cubism, and then continued to evolve into works of pure abstraction. 

A multi-dimensional artist, Henderson’s life was dedicated not only to painting, but to exploring alternative methods of expression, including embroidery, stained glass, and tapestry, as well as a lifetime commitment to education. Born into an era in society where female artists and writers were not treated with the same respect as their male counterparts, Dame Louise Henderson has now gained recognition as a highly significant member of Aotearoa New Zealand’s art history.

Gow Langsford Gallery has represented the Estate of Dame Louise Henderson since 2021.


Milburn, F., Strongman, L., Waite, J. (eds) (2019) Louise Henderson From Life. NZ: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū


Dame Louise Henderson


1919-1921 l'École de la broderie et dentelle de la ville de Paris, Paris, France

selected exhibitions

Download Curriculum Vitae

2022 Dame Louise Henderson, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland

2020 Louise Henderson: From Life, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch

2019 Louise Henderson: From Life, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland

1990 Two Centuries of New Zealand Landscape Art, Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland

1967 Royal Commonwealth Society exhibition, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, London

1965 Solo exhibition, Brussels, Belgium

1954 Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland

1953 Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland

1949 Helen Hitchings Gallery, Wellington

1948 Wellington Public Library