Piera McArthur was born in Ramsgate, England in 1929. Her family immigrated to New Zealand when she was still a child.
After completing a Master of Arts degree at Victoria University in 1951 Piera then went on to marry fellow student, John McArthur in 1954. They travelled extensively throughout Europe between 1957-73 with her husband’s Foreign Service Postings, and it was during this time that Piera began developing a growing interest in contemporary art.
While in Chile, in 1973 Piera discovered the art of Matta and began painting seriously. 1975 in Paris saw her meeting up again with Douglas MacDiamid whose support and encouragement grew. Painting became a way of life during the day and the diplomatic lifestyle of the evenings provided additional stimulation and inspiration. The time spent in Paris provided a firsthand appreciation of 20th Century French painting, the CoBrA artists and the German Expressionists who influenced the development of her own style. She became conversant with the Parisian art scene and exhibiting.
In 1990 The Soviet Artists Union sponsored an exhibition of 100 of Piera’s paintings and graphics at the New Tretiakov Gallery – first solo exhibition by a New Zealander. With her energetic brushwork and line, Piera depicts people in society, celebrating life in vivid works, and mixing figurative with abstract.
The show gained a lot of attention, both positive and negative: it was well reviewed but while capturing the imagination of many conservative Moscovites, it confused or upset others. The experiences of the Moscow exhibition were her consecration as a painter she feels.
In 1990 after living abroard for more than 26 years Piera and John returned to live in New Zealand in Hawke’s Bay and established a studio.
Since returning to New Zealand Piera has held numerous successful solo exhibitions in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Christchurch and contributed work to charity and many group shows.