Iconic New Zealand artist, Piera McArthur, was born in 1929 in Ramsgate, England, where her New Zealand father was studying medicine. The family moved back to their native New Zealand in 1938 and took up residence in their historic family home, Craiglockhart, just outside Palmerston North. There the young Piera would foster her love of art and drawing. After completing her schooling at Erskine College, Piera attended Victoria University where she completed a Master of Arts degree. Whilst at University Piera met her darling John and the couple married in 1954.
John McArthur was appointed to a diplomatic post and the couple travelled extensively throughout Europe between 1957 and 1973. Their first posting was in Paris and it would be the city of lights that would inspire Piera to extend her knowledge and passion for contemporary art. Piera recalls her time spent in diplomatic service stating; we set off into a most marvellous diplomatic life and wonderful postings. He was wonderful at his job. It wasn’t one long cocktail party. It was jolly hard work. We had to bring up a family and keep them on even keel. But it was wonderful. The couple moved to Chile in 1973 and were posted back to Paris in 1975.
It is this second posting to Paris that really spurred Piera on to develop her own artistic practice. A major influence on her painting at the time was fellow expatriate artist Douglas MacDiarmid who helped Piera realise her full potential as an artist. Painting became a way of life for Piera and her diplomatic lifestyle provided additional stimulation and inspiration. Piera became conversant with the Parisian art scene and began exhibiting regularly. She also exhibited her works in Moscow, another diplomatic posting for the adventurous couple. In 1990 the Soviet Artists’ Union sponsored an exhibition of a 100 of Piera’s paintings and graphics at the New Tretiakov Gallery. This was a remarkable achievement for Piera as she was the first solo New Zealand artist to exhibit at the gallery. Piera and John returned to New Zealand in 1990 and established a studio in Hawkes Bay. She later moved to Wellington. Since returning to New Zealand Piera has held numerous successful solo exhibitions and her works are held in many private and public collections throughout New Zealand and internationally.