Pioneering women artists


FRANK, Rosaline (1864-1954)

Rosaline Margaret Frank (or Rose Frank) was one of New Zealand's first professional women photographers, and the first in Nelson. She was born on 21 December 1864. the daughter of Christopher and Emma Frank and was a foundation pupil of the Nelson Roman Catholic Convent.

Rosaline Frank

Rosaline Frank, The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio collection

At the age of 21 she went to work at the Tyree Photographic Studio in Trafalgar Street, Nelson, which was opened in 1878 by William Tyree. His brother Frederick worked with him for some years. In 1895 she became manager of the studio with power of attorney for the business. William Tyree moved to Sydney, Australia, later that year and Rose continued running the studio in Nelson, also acting as agent for William Tyree's acetylene gas generators.

In 1914 Rose Frank purchased the studio and continued to operate it under the original name until her retirement in 1947 aged eighty two. Rose Frank is considered to be the first woman in New Zealand to have been professionally involved in photography. She was also actively involved in art and music.

In 1948 the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, purchased some 1,100 negatives she had stored in a strongroom. Just before her death Rose Frank gifted the Nelson Historical Society  the remaining  negatives (between 110,000 and 120,000) which are held at the Nelson Provincial Museum. She died in 1954 aged eighty nine.   Rosaline's main interests were photography, art and music. It was Rosaline who preserved the Tyree glass plate negatives. 

Rosalina McCarthy, who became Nelson's second professional woman photographer, urged local photographers and business people to donate to a fund for a memorial headstone in Wakapuaka Cemetery for Rosaline Frank's grave.  Rosalina has also written a biography of her predecessor.

NAYLOR Marjorie Eleanor Froom (1909-1985)

In 1932 Marjorie Naylor took over the running of the Nelson School of Painting in Hugh Scott's studio.  She was involved in the Nelson Suter Art Society for many years, exhibited in the gallery and had a studio in her home in Bridge Street Nelson. [The small house beside the Suburban Bus Co., currently Wills Jeweller]. Miss Naylor became well known for her portraits and landscapes, with her works in the permanent collection of the Suter Art Gallery and galleries throughout New Zealand and overseas. The director of the Suter Art Gallery, at the time of her death, described Marjorie as a shy, retiring person, a meticulous individual and one liked by many people.

HARRIS Emily Cumming (1837?-1925)

Emily was born about 1837 and arrived in New Plymouth in March 1841 with her parents,  a brother and two sisters. Her father, Edwin Harris, a civil engineer and surveyor, was also an artist. Her mother ran two schools in New Plymouth and Emily became an assistant teacher.

The Harris family moved to Nelson from Taranaki, as "Refugees" in March 1860, at the time of the Waitara War. Edwin was a drawing master at  Nelson College and  then, for nearly twenty years at the Bishop's School. With Emily he conducted a private drawing school. Emily and her sisters also ran an infant school in Nelson, in which Emily became a drawing teacher. 

All three sisters painted and sketched,  but Emily was sent to Hobart to study art.   Emily Harris was, of necessity, one of the few pioneering women artists in New Zealand  to try to earn a living solely by painting and teaching drawing.

Emily's diaries, held by the Taranaki Museum, detail the difficulties she endured in exhibiting. To be an artist in New Zealand's small community meant making the effort to transport work for exhibitions outside Nelson. Her great love was New Zealand  flowers and plants. She also wrote several small books on New Zealand berries, ferns and flowers. Many of her paintings [63] are in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.


Updated 2020

Other notable women artists of the region

Sarah Greenwood
Mina Arndt (1885-1926)
Lady Mabel M. Annesley (1881-1959)
Jane Evans (1946-)
Dorothy Kate Richmond (1861-1935)
Peggy Laird (see Nelson Pottery story)
Nina Davis (1914-1995)
Christine Boswijk (c.1940-)
Enga Washbourn (1908-1988)

Sources used in this story

Rosaline Frank

  • 61 years in studio (1947, April 15). Nelson Evening Mail, 2  
  • Lash, Max (1992). Nelson notables 1840-1940. Nelson, New Zealand: Nelson Historical Society, p.38.
  • McCarthy, R. (1993, May) Memorial to a pioneer : Rose Frank (1864-1954) NZ Journal of Photography, 11, p.13 
  • Obit. (1954, October 18) Nelson Evening Mail,  7  
  • Peters, C. (2006, March 4) The woman who preserved history, Nelson Mail, p.18
  • Peters, C. (1988, November 12) The Rose of Tyree, Press, p.21
  • Scene and heard (1991, December 9) New Zealand Woman's Weekly, p.46-7
  • Stace, Hilary (2007) Frank, Rosaline Margaret 1864 - 1954  Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007
  • A woman of prominence (1991, September 30) Nelson Evening Mail, p.4

Marjorie Naylor

  • Burial records[Wakapuaka Cemetery] Marjorie Eleanor F.: buried ashes 1 February 1985 along with Mary Naylor and Francis and Mary Browne and William and Mary Rogers

Emily Cumming Harris

Mina Arndt

Lady Mabel M. Annesley

  • Butterworth, S. (1999). The Suter : One hundred years in Nelson. Nelson, N.Z.: Nikau Press, p.72 
  • Ewing, C.L.(1981) Collected works of the Lady Mabel Annesley 1881-1959 : an exhibition commemorating the centenary of her birth. Nelson : C.L. Ewing
  • Mackle, T. (2003) Lady Mabel Annesley : a European perspective in the Antipodes Journal of New Zealand art history, 24, p.73-80
  • Malleson, C. (Ed.)(1964) As the sight is bent : an unfinished autobiography. London : Museum Press

Dorothy Kate Richmond

Peggy Laird

  • Gibbs, P. (2004)  Jack and Peggy Laird. Potters seen : New Zealand ceramics magazine, 3(3), p.18-20 
  •  Gibbs, P. (1985) Craft Habitat - Nelson. New Zealand Crafts, 15, p.33
  • Warren, J. (2007) Clay : the pottery industry:  165 years in Nelson (rev.ed.) [Richmond, N.Z.] : Nelson Potters' Association, p.18

Nina Davis

Christine Boswijk

  • Boswijk, C. (2001) Christine Boswijk : fact fusion faith. [Nelson, N.Z.] : The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu
  • Eggleton, D. (2002)  The earth's crust. Listener, 185(3258), p.58-59
  • Elliott, M. (2002) Past experience : Christine Boswijk in Nelson  Art New Zealand 102:p.56-58 
  • Moriarty, A. (2004, June 16) Under the surface Nelson Mail, p.17  
  • Neal, T. (2005, Mar/April) Clay shapes life  Third age New Zealand,  p.13-15
  • Williams, H. (1992) Seville, Expo '92. Potter, 34 (1), p.19-23

See also Eelco Boswijk story

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