About four years ago we were contacted by a person who wanted to donate a watercolour painting depicting Christchurch Cathedral Square, by Charles Nathaniel Worsley, to the Gallery.
The gift duly arrived but sadly was found to be an early framed reproduction. In honour of the donor's intentions, however, the print was hung above our librarian's desk, and was quietly appreciated. The whereabouts of the original remained unknown.
In 2013, however, we were contacted by the local owner of the original watercolour, who in moving overseas offered it to us for sale, recognising it as an artwork that should stay in the city. It was agreed that this was a valuable addition to the collection and one that would strengthen our holdings of works relating to local architectural heritage as well as of Worley's work.
This week from the seller we were also given a copy of the rare 1906 publication for which Worsley appears to have painted the Cathedral Square view. Souvenir of the New Zealand International 1906 Exhibition: Eight Views of Christchurch and Typical N.Z. Scenery was published by Christchurch bookseller and newsagent Fred H. East.
It is discovered that Worsley's prints were being advertised throughout New Zealand during the 1906-07 Christchurch International Exhibition – an excellent selling opportunity – and available locally for 6d each, or 3/6 for a book of eight. The price was more than double at Auckland's Victoria Arcade, where they were also available 'beautifully framed, at 3/- each, or set of 8 for 22/6; impossible to tell the reproductions from the originals.' We were fooled for but a moment.