Born in Paris, she was raised there and it was there she met her future husband Hubert Henderson, a New Zealander. Hubert returned to New Zealand in 1923 and proposed to Louise, but propriety demanded that a single woman not travel alone to New Zealand. She was married to Hubert by proxy at the British Embassy in Paris before emigrating to New Zealand in 1925 and settling with her husband in Christchurch where she began studies at the Canterbury School of Art. After earning her diploma in 1931 she went on to teach at the school.
In 1933 she gave birth to their only child, a daughter Diane.
In the early 1940s Henderson moved to Wellington and became interested in modernist concerns after seeing a number of cubist inspired paintings by John Weeks, who she was corresponding with. In 1950 the family moved to Auckland and she attended the Elam School of Art but was frustrated by its conservatism. She continued to work in John Weeks' studio, however and her work of this period becomes increasingly abstract and intellectual.
In 1952, at Weeks's urging, and with her husband's support, Louise Henderson returned to Paris for a year to improve her knowledge of modern painting. She studied there with Jean Metzinger. On her return to Auckland she was recognised as one of the leading Modernist painters. An exhibition of Henderson's adaptations of the cubist style was held at the Auckland City Art Gallery shortly after she returned from Paris in 1953. This show combined with exhibitions over following years in both Auckland and Wellington established her reputation as a modern artist of note.
She continued to employ a cubist approach, at times almost totally non-figurative, for the rest of her painting life. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s Henderson frequently chose still-life subjects as the starting point for paintings. All these works contain facetted abstraction in a traditionally cubist manner but still retain enough figurative fragments to enable the subject to be easily recognised.
Henderson continued to be an active painter well into her eighties. Her outstanding contribution to New Zealand painting was recognised in 1973 through the granting of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council fellowship.
She was honoured with a damehood in 1993, a year before her death on 27 June 1994, aged 92.
- "Henderson, Louise Etiennette Sidonie 1902 - 1994 from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography". 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
- "Dame Louise Henderson at Page Blackie Gallery". Retrieved 2008-05-13.
- Dunn, Michael. A Concise History of New Zealand Painting, David Bateman/ Craftsman House, 1991, Chapter 8 “Towards Modernism” (page 102).