High drama

Behind the scenes

Portraits of former Chief Justices of New Zealand hang in the No 1 courtroom at the Wellington High Court.


Now that trials are filmed, shots appear on the news each evening of these gentlemen. Quite a few were painted by Bill Sutton (1917-2000), artist, bon viveur and generous benefactor of Christchurch Art Gallery.

In the centre of the shot above, taken from a case currently being heard, is Sutton's portrait of the Rt Hon Sir Ronald Stevenson who held the post from 1978 to 1989.

And from our archives a photograph of the judge, his portrait and its creator, taken in 1987:


Sutton's biographer Pat Unger noted in her book Bill's story that 'Bill did not claim them [his formal portraits] as his own: they were his direct ... accounts of the sitter in his studio. He claimed never to flatter or caricature his subjects.'

The trial continues; the book, with a whole chapter on portraiture, is available in the Gallery shop