Ruth Davey

Ruth Davey, Waikato Icon

15 December 1923 – 26 December 2023

When Ruth and Lester Davey moved to Hamilton in 1960, one of the first things they did was join the WSA. This proved the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with the organisation and the foundation of many art friendships and collaborations.

After first studying monoprint with Campbell Smith, she commuted to Auckland to learn more techniques, and later began to build her printmaking skills with local mentors, such as Susan (Poff) Flight in Thames. By 1973 Ruth had established printmaking classes at the WSA Art School. Through the art school she taught relief and intaglio printmaking, drawing, watercolour and papermaking.

1970 saw her first exhibition, with Campbell Smith and Irma Conroy. In 1975 she was in the International Year for Women exhibition, Eight Waikato Artists, and had her first solo exhibition in 1978 at Studio Gallery. Her WSA friends will remember her part in the annual printmaking exhibition that became Waiprint and in the popular Left Bank festivals.

Over the following years Ruth exhibited around NZ and overseas, including in the UK, where she spent two extended study periods in Cumbria and Bristol. She was a foundation member of Print Council Aotearoa NZ (established in 2000 as Central Print Council) and has been an enthusiastic participant in their workshops and exhibitions, forming many new print friendships.

Ruth continued teaching etching classes until the mid-1990s, gradually handing over to Joan Travaglia and Stan Boyle, and afterwards came along as a classmate, always happy to help out with advice or a demo.

In 2013 she was in the group exhibition at Waikato Museum:  Don’t Fence Me In: Wise Waikato Women Artists 1930s-1970s. Later that year, in time for her 90th birthday, came a retrospective exhibition at ArtsPost:  Ruth Davey: A Lifetime of Drawing and Printmaking.

In recognition of her importance as a Waikato artist, Waikato Museum has acquired many of Ruth’s prints and virtually all of her sketchbooks, dating back to the 1950s.

Following their move to Hilda Ross Retirement Village, the Daveys put the remainder of Ruth’s art in the stewardship of the WSA. Today, these prints – some framed and many more unframed – are available to purchase from the WSA’s artspost shop. All proceeds from the sale of Ruth’s art go to the Ruth Davey Merit in Printmaking prize, established in 2020, and awarded at the annual New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Awards.

Below is just a small selection of Ruth’s prints available for purchase.

caption: Ruth Davey relates the story of her triptych Through Vatican Windows at Don’t Fence Me In: Wise Waikato Women Artists 1930s—1970s, Waikato Museum, 2013.

Art available for sale