Story: Washbourn, Enga Margaret

Page 1: Biography

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Washbourn, Enga Margaret

1908–1988

Artist, writer

This biography, written by Jeremy Goulter, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 5, 2000.

Enga Margaret Washbourn was born in Collingwood, Golden Bay, on 1 March 1908, the eldest child of Sydney Laing Sinclair and her husband, Henry Everly Arthur Washbourn, a medical practitioner in Nelson and later Collingwood. She attended Nelson College for Girls from 1921 to 1926. She excelled in art and her initial interest was encouraged by her father, who became president of the Suter Art Society in Nelson. A tutor, Nelson painter Hugh Scott, had a strong influence on her early art.

Enga attended the Canterbury College School of Art for five years. In 1929 she won a prize, open to all art students, from a Christchurch exhibition. During the 1930s and 1940s her work was regularly selected for rota exhibitions, which toured New Zealand, and in 1934 she won the students’ competition at the rota exhibition in Auckland. In 1937, the year of King George VI’s coronation, one of Enga’s paintings was selected for the exhibition of dominion art in London. In 1954 she had a picture selected to hang in the royal suite during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Nelson.

Working almost entirely in watercolours, Enga Washbourn painted landscapes, historical buildings and a few portraits. She depicted scenes in Nelson, Golden Bay, Canterbury and the West Coast. Unique in style, her paintings became known for their clarity, simplicity, colour, light and movement. Her most productive period was 1930 to 1950, although afterwards she continued to exhibit regularly at the Suter Art Gallery and throughout New Zealand.

On 7 January 1939, at Nelson, Enga Washbourn married Gerald Joseph Goulter, with whom she had three children. Initially they lived at the Goulter family farms in Marlborough, Hawkesbury, at Renwick, and Blarich in the Awatere Valley. While her husband was away at the war, Enga, who retained her unmarried name, lived at Collingwood with her parents. Gerald returned in 1944 and they farmed at Rock Glen, Takaka. In 1951 they moved to a high country farm, Speargrass, in the Nelson Lakes area.

For the 10 years she was at Speargrass, Enga Washbourn researched and wrote her book Courage and camp ovens , a historical account of Golden Bay, revolving around five generations of the Washbourn family. It was published in 1970. She and her husband also contributed to Jim Henderson’s popular ‘Open Country’ weekly radio series. In 1967 Enga and Gerald shifted to Fairbrook, Wakefield; after Gerald died in 1969 Enga moved to Nelson.

Her lifetime hobbies included tramping and climbing, mostly in the Mt Cook, Arthur’s Pass and Nelson areas; and gardening, which she did artistically and knowledgeably, mixing subtle colours, form and texture. In later years she developed a deep interest in the environment, joining the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand and the Nelson Historical Society. She became an active member of the Suter Art Society, served on the committee and was vice president. Enga Washbourn died at Stoke on 8 July 1988, survived by two sons.

How to cite this page:

Jeremy Goulter. 'Washbourn, Enga Margaret', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 5, 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5w11/washbourn-enga-margaret (accessed 24 October 2017)