Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Six - The Art Galleries)


The British Loan Collection in Room III.
Note the painting of Cardinal Newman.
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To read all parts of this blog series please click on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.



The British Loan Collection in Room III.
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

The Art Galleries

I will now detail the Art Galleries contained within the Exhibition. This was the great feature of the Exhibition and, "were there nothing else in the exhibition, [it] would be worth a long journey to see."

The Exhibition commissioners adopted a "spirited" policy in regards to the exhibition of art, having noted that the art gallery was the "chef d'œuvre" [masterpiece] of the Melbourne Exhibition of 1888-89. This policy was publicly supported by the President of the Otago Art Society.

The commissioners, with Government assistance, were very lucky to secure a considerable portion of the British loan collection which had been exhibited at Melbourne and then, for a time, in Sydney. Together with notable works of art by artists from New Zealand, the quality of art shown at the Dunedin Exhibition proved to be a notable aspect of the event. Notable also were the works by artists from Victoria and New South Wales on display in their respective "courts".    

"The result is that the collection as a whole was admittedly superior to that shown at Melbourne and, of course, immeasurable superior to anything that has previously been exhibited in any of the other colonies."

"...it is a privilege of a very high order for the general public of this colony or of any of the colonies to have opportunities of viewing a collection of works of art which, but for the exhibition, few residents in the colony would ever have seen."


The British Loan Collectionwith the painting of Queen Victoria
Taken by D.A. De Maus, 1889

The Art Gallery Building

The Art Gallery is approached from the south annex facing Anderson's Bay Road. Entering a large archway and turning to the left visitors pass through a corridor constructed principally of iron with a curved roof affording a view of the facade over the doorway of the gallery which is in the Corinthian style with bold pilasters flanked with smaller pilasters and carved columns carrying arches, the centres containing ornamental shells. Above is a cornice and frieze with the words "Art Gallery" in cement letters.


A room in the Art Gallery
Photo by D.A. De Maus
[Source : Hocken Collections]

A very heavy iron door leads through to the gallery occupying a space of 106ft by 100ft and divided up into six interconnecting rooms, each 48ft 6in by 34ft 3in with the walls 18ft in height. This would provide a wall space of between 9,000ft to 10,000ft, which, with the walls of corridors and extensions, brings it up to 12,000ft. This allowed for the display of between 1,200 to 1,500 pictures.

The roof, which is in three spans, is carried on iron columns encased in "brickwork of a temporary nature". Light is admitted by 60 skylights in iron frames. In fact, there is, apart from the wooden plugs used to secure the pictures, no woodwork to be seen. The galleries are consequently virtually fireproof. 42 tons of wrought iron were utilised in its construction, the floor being asphalt covered with a thin coating of cement. The walls are painted chocolate with the stencilled frieze in a buff colour and a darker coloured dado.

The pictures on display comprised of four distinct collections as follows :

Watercolours in Room I
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus

The New Zealand Loan Collection -

Mr W.H. Hodgkins, on behalf of the Special Exhibition Committee set up to organise the Art Gallery display, visited all the principal towns in New Zealand and hoped that loan pictures would show "a fairly perfect panorama of New Zealand" and "that the pictures sent from each locality should be as far as possible, local in composition, so that comparative representation can be obtained."

The pictures on display would "comprise the best examples in the colony, of painters of eminence." These would make up a grand total of 600 or 700 pictures. Artists represented would include Baraud, Bloomfield, Gibb, Beetham, Cousins, Wilson, Sheriff, J.C. Richmond, Steele, H. Watkins, Miss Hodgkins, Miss Richardson, Miss Wimperis, Miss Buddon, Miss Stoddart, Miss Fenton, and others. There would also be a large and highly credible collection of amateur works, many of whose names are well known in the colony and some beyond it.

A special feature of the picture galley would be the "Gully Gallery" located in the first room to the left of the entrance, the Committee having determined to set aside a separate portion  of their space to show the representative work "of the masterly poet-painter of New Zealand".

A newspaper reporter contrasted the New Zealand watercolours to the British watercolours thus; "We may say, without offence to our indigenous colonised artists that the difference in most instances is very marked, both in execution and style."


The British Loan Collection -


The painting of Cardinal Newman by 
John Everett Millais, 1881 which can 
be seen in the photo of Room III above
[Source : Wikipedia]

The British Loan Collection would included a total of forty two pictures including "Opening of London Bridge" in 1831 by Clarkson Stanfield (being lent by the Queen), "Hope" by Wald, "Cardinal Newman" by Sir John Everett Millais, "Phryne of Eleusis" by Frederick Leighton, "Shallows of Havesdale Cove" by Brett, "Mount Cook" and "Pukaki Belle" by Nicholas Chevalier, plus pictures by Winterhalter, W.B. Richmond, Sir James Pender, G.F. Watts, E. Long, E.A. Waterlow, Horaley, Perugini, Hayden, Landseer, and "there are some of the best portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds"     


Room II
Photo by D.A. De Maus, 1889

Room II
Photo by D.A. De Maus, 1889

The Anglo-Australian Collection - 


Room V
The Anglo-Australian Collection
Taken 1889 by D.A. De Maus 

The so-named collection was of some 130 pictures consisting of representative works of the new English or Newlyn school comprising of pictures by W.A. Ingram, A.W. Weedon, N. Dawson, W.J. Morgan, A.W. Strutt, W.F. Bishop, T.C. Gotch, Wylie, Henley, Moore, Solomon, Bramley, Stanhope, and Forbes. A magnificent painting, which was believed to be one of the finest pictures in the Exhibition, is on the left hand wall of the 5th room is entitled "Helpless" and is a joint work between W.A. Ingram and T.C. Gotch.


The Anglo-Australian Collection in Room V
Note the painting of "Preparations for the Market"
Taken by D.A. De Maus, 1889

This collection was supplemented by "the Scottish Art Collection" [click here for detailed list] of some seventy or eighty additional paintings and watercolours comprising of works by Sir Noel Paton, George Reid, R.S. Hindman, Colin Hunter, A. Perigal, Anderson, McWhirter, McTaggart, and other eminent Scottish artists.


"Preparations for the Market, Quimperlé, Brittany"
noted in the photo above, by Stanhope Forbes, 1883
[Source : Dunedin Public Art Gallery]


Upon the closure of the Exhibition, the large 1690 by 1340 mm oil painting of "Preparations for the Market" by Stanhope Forbes was purchased for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, being funded by public subscription. This has always been one of my favourites, the light background giving the bright figures an added sense of perspective thereby bringing the scene to life.

The Australian Art Galleries

The Victorian Gallery -

This gallery is located near the southern end of the Victorian Court comprising about 250 pictures lent by the Victorian Artists' Association. Amongst them were works by Boorlow, Chevalier, Tom Roberts, Mather, Campbell, and others.

To this collection must be added 200 pictures brought to Dunedin by Mr Fletcher, the Superintendent of the Victorian Court. There is also a small representative collection from the Koek-Koek Gallery in Melbourne which comprises some of the work of the Hungarian painter Munkacsy.


The New South Wales Gallery -

"The Defense of Rorke's Drift"
by Alphonse De Neuville, 1880
[Source : Wikipedia]

This collection includes a large number of pictures, the property of the New South Wales Commissioner and includes some genuione old masters as well as a small collection of about 50 pictures lent by the Art Society of New South Wales. One significant painting is Alphonse De Neuville's great picture, "The Defence of Rorke's Drift".

The Various School of Art -

Located in the Home Industries Court in one of the cross-annexes, a number of bays display works by the Dunedin School of Art, the Canterbury School of Art, and the Wellington School of Design.

The display would feature only the best work of the students and included the results of the monthly Wellington School of Art competition in design.These collections were notes as being of "an encouraging nature".

Support for a National Art Collection

Following on from the success of the Dunedin exhibition, The Otago Art Society actively supported a proposal that the Government vote a sum of say, £5000 "for the purchase of 60 or 80 works of undoubted merit and educational value, such works to form the nucleus of a national collection." I note that Dunedin had the first public art gallery (housed within the museum) which opened in 1884 and then relocated to the Municipal Chambers in 1889-90 before moving to a purpose built building at Queen Gardens in 1907; the Auckland Art Gallery opened in 1888; the Christchurch City Art Gallery in 1932, with the "National Art Gallery" in Wellington not being established until as late as 1936.


The next blog in this series will provide a description of some of the Exhibition Amusements and Souvenirs. The complete series of blogs will be available by clicking on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- NZ History Net / Nga Korero a ipurango o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin


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