“I forgot the weather amongst Miss Stoddart’s beautiful flower paintings…” – Ellis Rowan, 1898
When Margaret Stoddard’s father, Mark Pringle Stoddard, first arrived at Lyttelton from Australia in 1851, he caused quite a stir with his obvious wealth and simple, basic ways. He first settled on 55 acres on the southern side of Lyttelton Harbour, naming his farm Diamond Harbour after the nearby sparkling harbours waters. And there he built the most unusual living abode…
Charlotte Godley, the wife of Canterbury’s founder John Robert Godley, writes to her mother:
“…he still lives in a horrible den…into which you creep through a hole; there being neither a door or window. I believe it is rather the Australian plan to live in this discomfort, unless there is a lady concerned; but it seems rather extraordinary because Mr. Stoddard appears to have money. He is, more-over, when he appears in the world, quite a gentleman, fond of drawing, poetry, reading and so on; so clever and pleasant, that he made them [John Robert Godley & J.C. Watts-Russell, the owner of Ilam farm) spend a very agreeable evening, in spite of the locality…” – 27th April 1852
Mark Stoddard continued to collect up properties, purchasing land all over Canterbury and, at a time, even owned Quail Island. He was also the first European to explore around Lake Coleridge. In 1862 he was married, built the Stoddard Cottage – in Diamond Harbour which survives today – and began having a family. On 3rd October 1865, Margaret Olrog Stoddard was born, the first of six offspring.
By the time of her 14th birthday and following on from a few years of education in Edinburgh Scotland, she must have already been displaying the talent that would eventually send her all around the world. She was enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art (Ilam School of Fine Arts) upon her return to New Zealand. In 1885, as a council member of the Canterbury Society of Arts (whose art was the founding collection of the Robert McDougall Gallery); she began to sell her art, becoming known as New Zealand’s finest flower painter. Encouraged by a fellow Australian flower painter, Margaret held her first overseas exhibit in Melbourne in 1894.
As the world entered into the 20th century, Margaret was making her way around Europe, painting as she went. Her works were sought out by several establishments which included the London’s Royal Institute and the Rome based Society of Aquarellists.
Upon her return to Christchurch in 1906 she soon became known for her support and hosting of New Zealand’s up and coming artists. She was a member of the Christchurch Sketch Club, vice-President of the Canterbury Society of Arts and taught at her old school – Canterbury College of Arts.
She died of a heart attack on 10th December 1934 at Hanmer Springs.
*Image courtesy of Christchurch Public Libraries – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com – File Reference CCL Photo CD 8, IMG0087