Scoop Review of Books

Trevelyan Wins Three Montanas


Te Papa Press, New Zealand’s only dedicated museum publisher, has received three awards at the Booksellers New Zealand conference for its biography Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life by Jill Trevelyan.

On Sunday evening Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life received the Nielsen BookData New Zealand Booksellers’ Choice Award, and last night (Monday) the judges of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards announced that the book had won both the biography category and the overall Montana Medal for Non-Fiction.

Publisher Claire Murdoch says “All of us at Te Papa Press are delighted Jill has received these honours. From the first germ of an idea, her book was a winner for us – and as the book’s many readers know, Jill’s careful research and subtle writing have brought us to a new understanding of this enigmatic New Zealand artist and her powerful, moving paintings.

The booksellers’ choice award is a particularly important acknowledgement to us because without the love of real, live readers and front-line sales staff, a good book can die a lonely death on the shelves. Thanks to this award, we know Jill’s biography was more than just a good book. to those important experts.”

Philip Norman, the Montana New Zealand Book Awards’ biography category advisor, says Jill’s book helps establish Angus’s “rightful place as a principal figure in the history and development of New Zealand art.”

The judges went on to describe Jill’s writing as “elegant and lucid” and the book overall as “another tribute to Te Papa Press’s high production values.”

Together the three awards carry a combined $17,500 prize for the author.

Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life is also receiving compliments from the critics. Hamish Keith in the New Zealand Listener described it as “one of the best artist biographies ever”, while Peter Simpson writing in the Sunday Star-Times called it “the best biography of a New Zealand artist published so far.”

Jill Trevelyan is also co-curator of the exhibition Rita Angus: Life & Vision which opens at Auckland Art Gallery this Saturday, 1 August. The exhibition has already been visited by over 250,000 people in Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch. Auckland Art Gallery is its final venue.

Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life is the first and only biography of one of New Zealand’s best-loved and most significant 20th century artists. The book was published to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth. It joins several award-winning titles to come out under the Te Papa Press imprint in recent years. Eagle’s Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand won the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction in 2007 and, the same year, at the Spectrum Print Book Design Awards, won the Best Illustrated Book, Best Cover, and Best Book awards. Philip Simpson’s Pohutukawa and Rata: New Zealand’s Iron-hearted Trees won the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction in 2006. Jill’s previous book, Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters was shortlisted for the Montana Awards in 2005.

“It’s a tiny office and our award wall is getting a little crowded – but it’s a good problem to have!” says Claire.