The Fine Arts Library has recently received a copy of A true & strange story : the life of Teuane Ann Tibbo, artist 1895 -1984 written by her daughter Audie M. Pennefather (2009). This self-published biography chronicles the life of Tibbo whose naïve or self-taught paintings helped her come to prominence in the Auckland art scene of the mid-1960s. You can find three examples of her work in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery.
Mrs Tibbo had a full and eventful life before she took up painting at the age of 69. The following excerpt describes the crime passionel which resulted in the death of her first husband and a prison term for Teuane.
I felt I was fainting. My mind stopped. I could not breathe! I screamed, and screamed. I reached for the gun against the wall and fired. Willie screamed in agony, moaning in pain… (p. 118)
I slowly tied my horse’s bridle around the branch of a small tree… took off my straw hat and crawled up to the flat-top rock – and curling my legs up, I wrapped my riding skirt around my ankles. I looked upwards, to see the blue sky through the trees branches swaying to-and-fro. The quiet sounds from the streams running water put me to sleep. I kept waking up and thinking of Willie, praying no one would find me. I wanted to die right there on the rock, and meet him as a white butterfly wherever he was (Pennefather, 2009, p. 121).
Teuane married her second husband Edward Victor Tibbo in 1920 and moved from Fiji to New Zealand in 1946.
Interestingly, Tibbo only began painting in her late sixties. Her vibrant canvases are described in an insightful article by Bronwyn Fletcher as having a “rich jewel-like impasto surface” (2002-2003, p. 82). During her brief but influential career she exhibited with a number of mainstream established artists such as Michael Illingworth, Pat Hanly, Tony Fomison and Nigel Brown.
One of Mrs Tibbo's works entitled Samoan Village Scene is held in The University of Auckland Art Collection.
While A true & strange story does not specifically focus on her art, this book remains a valuable piece of family research. It provides context and insight into the motivations of the artist and her art practice, and Pennefather’s idiosyncratic writing style delightfully captures the voice of Mrs Tibbo.
With thanks to Audie Pennefather and Jonathan Mane-Wheoki for their kind donation.
Fletcher, B. (2002-2003). Between fine and folk : the paintings of Teuane Tibbo. Art New Zealand, 105 (Summer ), 80-85.
Pennefather, A. M. (2009). A true & strange story : the life of Teuane Ann Tibbo, artist 1895 -1984. Tweed Heads, N.S.W.: A.M. Pennefather.
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