The wisdom of crowds

W.A. Sutton Homage to Frances Hodgkins 1951. Destroyed. Artist Bill Sutton, then a young lecturer at the art school, registered his protest at the rejection of Pleasure Garden by painting a large composite portrait of Hodgkins's supporters grouped around the work. It was an imaginary meeting; and likely to have been based on Henri Fantin-Latour's A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet) (1870), now in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. At the centre of the image is Hodgkins and a young Colin McCahon. In the foreground, a discarded copy of The Press lies crumpled on the floor. Sutton's painting was damaged beyond repair a few years after it was painted, but photographs of the work remain.

W.A. Sutton Homage to Frances Hodgkins 1951. Destroyed. Artist Bill Sutton, then a young lecturer at the art school, registered his protest at the rejection of Pleasure Garden by painting a large composite portrait of Hodgkins's supporters grouped around the work. It was an imaginary meeting; and likely to have been based on Henri Fantin-Latour's A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet) (1870), now in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. At the centre of the image is Hodgkins and a young Colin McCahon. In the foreground, a discarded copy of The Press lies crumpled on the floor. Sutton's painting was damaged beyond repair a few years after it was painted, but photographs of the work remain.

In recent years, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing have become big news in the arts. By providing a funding model that enables would-be-investors to become involved in the production of new works, they have altered traditional models of patronage. Musicians, designers, dancers and visual artists are inviting the public to finance their projects via the internet. The public are also being asked to provide wealth in the form of cultural capital through crowdsourcing projects. The Gallery has been involved in two online crowdfunding ventures – a project with a public art focus around our 10th birthday celebrations, and the purchase of a major sculpture for the city. But, although these projects have been made possible by the internet, the concept behind the funding model is certainly not new. The rise of online crowdfunding platforms also raises important questions about the role of the state in the funding and generation of artwork, and the democratisation of tastemaking. How are models of supply and demand affected? Does the freedom from more traditional funding models allow greater innovation? Do 'serious' artists even ask for money? It's a big topic, and one that is undoubtedly shaping up in PhD theses around the world already. Bulletin asked a few commentators for their thoughts on the matter.

 

When Michael Parekowhai’s bronze bull – Chapman’s Homer – goes on display, its label is a crowded affair. It includes the names of twenty-seven corporate donors and private individuals, as well as ‘1,074 other big-hearted individuals and companies’ who gave money to purchase the work for Christchurch. Chapman’s Homer caught the public imagination as a symbol of the resilience of local culture when it was exhibited amid the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes; a successful crowdfunding campaign kept it here. While online crowdfunding for art and culture is a recent phenomenon, the practice itself is not. Historical antecedents cited by the US funding platform Kickstarter include Alexander Pope, who generated 750 subscribers for his translation of Homer’s Iliad in 1715; Mozart, who crowdfunded the performance of three piano concertos in Vienna in 1784; and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1885, which was paid for by more than 160,000 New Yorkers after a fundraising campaign run by Joseph Pulitzer, mainly through individual donations of less than $1 apiece.

Christchurch Art Gallery has a long history of crowdfunding. Many of the Victorian paintings and sculptures in the collection were acquired by the Canterbury Society of Arts (and later transferred to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery) from the 1906 New Zealand International Exhibition with a fund of £2,442 raised from council members and local businessmen. A ‘group of citizens’ purchased Dame Laura Knight’s Les Sylphides from the Back of the Stage in 1935 after an exhibition of her work toured New Zealand; Jonathan Mane-Wheoki persuaded a group of ex-Christchurch students each to chip in £5 to buy Karel Appel’s Personnage Jaune in London in 1973. Other groups came together over the years to acquire works for the city’s collection by Raymond McIntyre, Louise Henderson, Eric Lee-Johnson, Archibald Nicoll, and Marté Szirmay, among others.

Controversial crowdfunding campaigns were behind the acquisition of two well-known modern works in the collection. The long list of subscribers to the picture fund for Frances Hodgkins’s Pleasure Garden in 1949 included artists Rita Angus, Olivia Spencer Bower, Doris Lusk and Colin McCahon; led by local potter and painter Margaret Frankel, they battled for many months to have the work accepted into the city’s collection. Frankel wrote that ‘it had not been at all difficult to find subscribers ready and willing to give money for this painting so that the Robert McDougall Art Gallery might have at least one picture by this famous New Zealander.’ What had been difficult was the heated argument over the merits of modern art (later described as Christchurch’s ‘Great Art War’) which took place at public meetings and in the pages of the newspaper.

History repeated itself in 1960, when the gift of McCahon’s work Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is – funded through a public subscription organised by the city’s librarian, art patron Ron O’Reilly – was initially refused by the director of the Robert McDougall, W.S. Baverstock, who had been instrumental in the rejection of Hodgkins’s work a decade earlier. The work was finally accepted in 1962, and is now regarded as one of the Gallery’s most important modern paintings.

Lara Strongman is senior curator at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

 

Crowdfunding is both an opportunity to increase the role of individuals in supporting creative projects and a potential threat to the democratic investment of the whole of society in culture and the arts. This apparent paradox is older than the internet or crowdfunding: every time a voluntary organisation supports an institution or offers a service that amounts to a public good, it means that local and national government don't have to provide; and if they don't have to provide, then someone might argue that it's not their place to do so.

When it comes to crowdfunding, we have heard the argument already. In the United States, where the money raised by Kickstarter alone has long-since surpassed the disbursements of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Republican candidate at the last presidential election pledged to end Federal contributions to the fund; whereas in the Britain of new austerity and the Big Society, the role of the Arts Council established by Keynes in 1946 is routinely questioned. Taking part in a debate hosted by The Economist, Adam Smith Institute researcher Pete Spence declared that 'The dead hand of the state doesn't have much going for it – we should put it to rest and embrace the messy, diverse, vibrant tapestry of commercial funding.'

The rhetoric is familiar, and the key word is 'commercial'. Although major institutions such as the Louvre have used it to secure funding for permanent exhibits, crowdfunding in the arts has mostly been successful to date as a mechanism for pre-selling, whereby individuals might invest in a project in exchange for a book, CD, DVD, print or concert ticket. But the arts aren't the sum of consumer products, including live performances or exhibitions, nor is commercial success the only measure of an artist's work. Crowdfunding is often said to democratise patronage and investing, but art is a public good, and ensuring that the state remains committed to its support means above all protecting a collective democratic stake. Our methods for determining artistic value may be imperfect, but this doesn't mean that we should defer the responsibility of making those decisions solely to the market, or to the people with enough disposable income and time on their hands.

This is not to deny the value of crowdfunding, which lies precisely – and it is no paradox – in creating more opportunities for the public to participate in those decisions; in extending and deepening the commitment we make as a society to activities that cannot be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis, yet define us.

Giovanni Tiso is an Italian writer and translator based in Wellington. He has written about media and politics for a range of publications including The New Inquiry, The New Humanist and The Guardian, and is a featured writer for the Australian literary journal Overland. He blogs at Bat, Bean, Beam (bat-bean-beam.blogspot.com).

 

Crowdfunding is a new take on an old method for funding the arts: patronage. Count Ferdinand von Waldstein earned lasting fame by his early sponsorship of Beethoven. While patrons supporting the arts through Kickstarter can hardly expect similar name recognition, they can similarly enjoy a sense of part-ownership of the final production.

Arts patronage was typically, and remains, the domain of the wealthy. Smaller patrons could never really be sure how much difference their contributions made. Consequently, donations can suffer from what economists call a public goods problem: because everyone can benefit from a work when it is produced, it is often best to sit back and wait to see whether the work might be produced without your contribution. And so arts organisations provide special bonuses for members of their affiliated groups of supporters.

While this comes some way towards solving the public goods problem, crowdfunding alternatives provide a more direct approach: no donor is charged unless the project has enough pledged support to go ahead. Each donor can then feel part-ownership of the project. Because of the donor's support, along with that of like-minded others, an artist could make something new and beautiful – as judged by the donor. The New York Times reported in January that the traditional fine arts have some of Kickstarter's highest success rates.1

The public goods problem remains where some would-be supporters delay pledging in hopes that the threshold is reached without their contribution. Clever crowdfunding initiatives can mitigate the problem by providing bonuses to early pledgers, like signed tokens from the artists that can be produced at low cost but are of high value to supporters as it enables them to display their affiliation and support.

Even better, arts organisations can use crowdfunding mechanisms to gauge support for the different initiatives they might undertake. A gallery could propose commissioning several different works; patron support through PledgeMe would determine which were commissioned, and supporters could receive small versions of the commissioned work in acknowledgement, from pins through prints.

PledgeMe supporters of a [hypothetical] Christchurch Art Gallery commission of a new painting (by an artist like Jason Greig, for example) would hardly earn Waldstein's fame. But, a supporters' limited-edition lithograph of the newly commissioned work could be fame enough for many supporters – including me.

Eric Crampton is head of research with the New Zealand Initiative in Wellington. From 2003 to 2014, he lectured in Economics at the University of Canterbury.

 

'The crowd' is now also capable of creating value for an institution directly, through their participation rather than their donations. But successful use of this social currency requires us, paradoxically, not to think of 'the crowd'. Instead, we must work to ensure that the act of a single participant offering a single contribution is as meaningful, effortless and joyous as possible.

Members of the public arrive already filled with enthusiasm for our cultural heritage institutions. Tapping into that reservoir of goodwill requires empathy as much as technical savvy or financial resources. Without an understanding of the motivations of potential participants, even the most generously funded project has little chance of receiving their time and attention. The key questions are: What things in our collections do they find most interesting? What makes them want to contribute something to those collections? And, crucially, what makes them want to continue to do so?

Some collections are more charismatic than others, in that the stories that they tell are entertaining and readily understood. It's no accident that the most successful project of this type that I've worked on was a collection of restaurant menus. Anything related to family histories, local communities/iwi, maps, beautiful pictures – and yes, food – is always innately interesting to people.

Software interfaces for crowdsourcing are crucial to their success, and need to be relentlessly tested and edited. When evaluating a design, I am constantly looking for its 'core gesture'. An early prototype that might require four or five steps to get anything done must be revised until it's ground down to one. This is the hard work of design: the sanding-off of all of the sharp edges until the participatory flow is as free and easy as possible. If an interaction is the least bit difficult to get through once, forget ever asking people to repeat it over and over.

Crowdsourcing appeals to participants' better nature. When as little as ten seconds of 'micro-volunteering' can create some new value, both institution and volunteer benefit. While editing, correcting and adding to a collection, a participant gains a deeper knowledge and understanding of its inner workings than she could ever get from a simple Google search. It's a very active form of learning. The sense of ownership this engenders has the side effect of keeping the quality up; I commonly hear from managers of these projects that the bad input or vandalism they initially feared turned out to be almost non-existent.

When everything comes together, though, the act of contributing becomes its own reward. That same simple thing that makes people spend hours playing Candy Crush on their phones – a satisfying response to a simple gesture – can be harnessed in the service of improving a part, however small, of our shared cultural heritage. And the double good feeling that that instils in the participant will make her want to come back often, and to share her experience with others.

Michael Lascarides is the manager of the National Library online team at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington. Prior to joining the NLNZ, he managed the web team at the New York Public Library, where he helped create a number of successful crowdsourcing projects. He is a contributor to the recent book Crowdsourcing Our Cultural Heritage (2014, Ashgate Press, edited by Mia Ridge).

 

Arts philanthropy is about participation. Being part of it, close to the action, this is what excites people to donate to the arts. Crowdfunding is fast philanthropy in a modern context. Artists that engage with donors understand the potential for deeper relationships when they share their creative process.

At Boosted we provide a simple plan that significantly increases an artist's chances of success with online fundraising. As part of the plan we advise artists to invite audiences into their studios, to collaborative sessions and on research trips during their campaigns. Audiences that experience an artist at work become invested and sometimes lifelong supporters.

I am excited by the potential for crowdfunding to inspire artists to increase engagement with audiences; to open up the process of creation as part of the experience for audiences in the final work. This won't suit all artists, but for some it could be an enriching part of their process.

Eliot Collins launched his Boosted campaign on Auckland's waterfront with the opportunity for people to paint the first strokes of his mural. He had a ceremony to hoist a flag and a party. Eliot said 'I want to reintroduce the romance of the waterfront to the people of Auckland'. Boosted helped Eliot create engagement in his message and investment of hearts, minds, and wallets in his project.

Opening up the creative process and/or providing ways for audiences to help artists create work provides a new level of artistic risk. The deeper the relationship with the audience, the less financial risk there is to reach a crowdfunding target. Invested audiences donate.

Crowdfunding has the potential to dynamically increase the level of knowledge people have about the arts, but it does not turn the public into curators. The relationship between donor and artist is one on one; it is very rare for donors to visit a crowdfunding site to choose between projects. The artists with the best philanthropic strategies are the ones that reach their targets.

Public engagement in the funding of arts projects has the potential to increase government and civic funding. Projects that are funded on Boosted demonstrate innovation in raising funds and a high level of engagement with audiences. Artists that achieve targets on Boosted can increase the confidence of funders by providing tangible evidence that audiences care.

We can't wait to see artists use Boosted to create work with audiences. The potential for audience interaction to become integral to the art experience is one of the most exciting things about the future of crowdfunding.

Simon Bowden is executive director of the Arts Foundation and creator and trustee of Boosted.

 

Let's start with taste making, for I'm not sure that public institutions do so much of this these days. Private collectors have their own ideas and, in a culturally-active city, dealer galleries, artist-run spaces, academics and auction houses also play a role; advertising, magazines and journals further shape tastes (I prefer to think of them as multiple and diverse) as well. Relatively speaking, art galleries in New Zealand are less able-to-buy than an active range of private collectors.

Public galleries certainly confirm and maintain a record of what's visually significant at a given time. And we operate within a broader market place; dealer galleries may discount works for art museums; artists will list collections they are in, public as well as well-known private collections. But relative to some, our means are limited.

It's part of our job to be aware of market values and negotiate appropriate prices for collection items. But we work with an eye for the longer term and it's important to know when a collection will be so enhanced that it's necessary to pay top price for a given work, to wager that this specific investment will pay off in terms of cultural understanding and community pleasure. The price might seem high at the time, but a gallery's reputation is judged on what it collects, not what it fails to acquire. Others trust our judgements – and we anticipate market catch up.

Now to sources of funding. There's a big difference between receiving public funding and being fully funded. About three-quarters of Christchurch's operational funding is secured via the ratepayer base and we could not maintain the city's collections nor open to the public without this reliable core funding. So Gallery staff are expected to maximise an income stream in support of what we do – more than the current allocation from rates is needed to maintain the quality and relevance of what we present.

Our situation is worsening, however. In this city with multiple priorities, the new long-term plan proposes halving acquisitions funding from July 2015. Our task of representing this time and ensuring the city's collection remains nationally significant continues. We'll become even more reliant on our Foundation raising money from private individuals for at least the next four years.

This institution needs to be increasingly clear about the importance of our role as visual archivists of a place, our histories and our cultures. We know how much good art really matters – we've seen how it shapes a community, inspires us, make us laugh, helps us to think and reflect. Collections like ours (and the exhibitions through which we interpret it) are a key means of ensuring our community respects the past, debates the current and is given tools to imagine the future.

This Gallery, its partners and friends, will work energetically to ensure all our key tasks are supported to play their part. The means may change from time-to-time, but the fact of fundraising is not new. Various mechanisms are used, with online crowd-funding a recent innovation. We know from experience that this takes careful planning and a heap of personal energy. You couldn't do it often.

Is it me, or does our role as taste-maker suddenly seem a bit inconsequential?

Jenny Harper is director at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

 

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The quality and portable scale of this fine Roman 'veduta' (a detailed depiction of a cityscape or vista) suggest it was originally intended as a wealthy eighteenth-century traveller’s Grand Tour souvenir. It is understood to have been purchased in Budapest in the 1950s by Eugène Lestocquoy, a French diplomat who relocated to Wellington after the 1956 Hungarian uprising; he presented it to a neighbourhood friend before his return to France in 1960. The painting was purchased in 1971 for the collection through the Ballantyne bequest, formed from an insurance settlement from the estate of William Ballantyne (1864–1934), whose art collection was largely destroyed in the 1947 Ballantyne's department store fire. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
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A painter of religious and Orientalist themes, Sophie de Bouteiller was better known by the pseudonym Henriette Browne, under which name she exhibited this work at the Paris Salon (as Les Puritaines) in 1857. It was purchased there by Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III; they lived with this painting while in lasting exile in England after the Emperor’s crushing defeat to Prussia in 1870. Following Eugénie’s death in 1920 it was sold at Christie’s, London and went to a Sydney art dealer. After being shown in Dunedin at the 1925–26 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, it was purchased by Robert E. McDougall, donor of Christchurch’s first public gallery, and became part of his extraordinary civic gift. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016) First exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1857 with the title 'Les Puritaines', this painting has for many years also been known as 'La Lecture de la Bible'.
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The Vienna-trained, Bohemian-born artist Gottfried Lindauer arrived in New Zealand in 1874, and became famous for his portraits of eminent Māori. Lindauer painted several portraits of Tūkaroto Matutaera Pōtatau Te Wherowhero Tāwhiao (c. 1825–1894), the second Māori king, based on photographs by others. This painting is based on a studio portrait taken in 1884 by Australian photographer Henry King, during King Tāwhiao’s visit to Sydney while en route to England. Tāwhiao’s goal was to meet with and gain recognition from Queen Victoria of the Treaty of Waitangi and to redress the injustice of vast confiscations of Māori land, but did not meet with success. (He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)
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Raymond McIntyre Ruth
Arriving in London in 1909, the Christchurch-born and trained Raymond McIntyre soon gained a reputation there for his small, pared-back landscapes and studies of female heads, painted in an elegant, simplified, Japanese woodblock inspired style. This painting was modelled on an actor and dancer who became his principal muse from 1912, sometimes mentioned in his letters home: “The girl who is sitting for me a lot now, Sylvia Constance Cavendish… has a very refined interesting pale face… I have done some very good work from her… she is quite a find.” McIntyre died in London in 1933. Seven of his works were given by his family between 1938 and 1991. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
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Cynthia’s Birthday
Harry Linley Richardson Cynthia’s Birthday
Harry Linley Richardson was brought out to New Zealand from London in 1908 to become an art instructor at the Wellington Technical School. His design background led to New Zealand postage stamp design commissions and he became well-known for his paintings, predominantly of children and Māori subjects. Cynthia’s Birthday, based on his own children, was exhibited in Auckland and Wellington in 1927 and Christchurch in 1928, and purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts with funding support from the city council. One of the first paintings to be bought for the city’s intended new public art gallery, it was presented by the Society in 1932. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Relaxation
Thomas Benjamin Kennington Relaxation
Thomas Benjamin Kennington’s focus as an artist was in the sympathetic depiction of the everyday reality of the poor and working classes. Born in Great Grimsby, a seaport town in England’s northeast, he studied art in Liverpool, London and Paris, and from 1880 exhibited annually at the Royal Academy, where this naturalistic workroom scene was shown in 1908. Relaxation was exhibited at the 1911 International Exposition of Art in Rome and at the 1913 New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts exhibiton in Wellington. By 1920 it was in the hands of newspaper proprietor Robert Bell. Bell was president of the Canterbury Society of Arts from 1925–26, and bequeathed ten paintings to the gallery. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Teresina
Lord Frederic Leighton Teresina
The name Teresina appears in a notebook list of models sketched by Frederic Leighton during an 1874 stay in Rome. Italy was his second home; he spent much of his childhood and later studied there, and he habitually relocated there from London each autumn. Leighton showed Teresina at the Royal Academy in London in 1876. After being in private ownership for thirty years, the painting was sent to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition, joining the largest collection of British art shown at a Colonial exhibition. Purchased there by the Canterbury Society of Arts, Teresina was presented to the city's new public art gallery in 1932. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Ana Reupene Whetuki and Child
Gottfried Lindauer Ana Reupene Whetuki and Child
Ana Reupene Whetuki from the Ngāti Maru iwi (tribe) was well- known in the Thames goldfields district in the Coromandel. She lived at Manaia, where her descendants still live today. Also known as Heeni Hirini and Ana Rupene, she was married to Reupene Whetuki, a Ngāti Maru rangatira (chief) who in 1881 was also listed as a gold miner and shareholder in ‘The Maori Win Gold Mining Company’. Gottfried Lindauer is known to have painted at least twelve versions of this portrait between 1878 and 1920. These were based on the photographic studio portrait by the Foy Brothers of Thames, which is also in this exhibition. Lindauer had first visited Thames in 1874 shortly after arriving in New Zealand from Bohemia (present day Czech Republic). (He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)
Collection
A Hot Day. Wiremu Pātara Te Tuhi, Ngāti Mahuta
Charles Frederick Goldie A Hot Day. Wiremu Pātara Te Tuhi, Ngāti Mahuta
The Ngāti Mahuta chief Pātara Te Tuhi (c. 1824–1910) was a key leader in the Kīngitanga, the Māori King movement which aimed to unify Māori under a single sovereign. He was a newspaper publisher and secretary to his cousin King Tāwhiao, travelling with him to England in 1884 to seek recognition from Queen Victoria of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi signed on her behalf. Pātara Te Tuhi first met Charles Goldie in 1901 and became a favourite, regular model. He also became increasingly well- known throughout New Zealand through the widespread reproduction of his painted and photographic portraits. Goldie attended Pātara Te Tuhi’s tangi in 1910, where two reproductions of this portrait were prominently displayed. (He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)
Collection
A Reading from Plato
Gertrude Demain Hammond A Reading from Plato
Gertrude Demain Hammond was a prolific London illustrator who was also active in exhibiting her watercolours. A Reading from Plato was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1903 before coming to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition. There it was purchased by the avid local art collector James Jamieson, who with his brother William, ran one of the city’s largest construction companies. Following his death in 1927, James’s family presented many works of art from his collection to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection, which at its opening in 1932 consisted of 160 paintings and sculptures. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Cottage Interior with Kitchen Maid
Gabriel Metsu, Artist Unknown Cottage Interior with Kitchen Maid
The artist for this early Dutch domestic scene is not identified, but it suggests the influence of Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667), a student of Gerrit Dou, whose painting The Physician is also in the Gallery's collection. The scene celebrates the established ideals of seventeenth-century Dutch housekeeping, with ingredients waiting and pans and utensils shining clean; everything carefully prepared and in order. This painting entered the collection as a gift (along with twelve engravings by William Hogarth) from the estate of Frederick James Oakley, an English dental surgeon who moved to Christchurch with his wife in 1953 and died here three years later. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Scene in a Tavern
Matthijs Naiveu Scene in a Tavern
Matthijs Naiveu studied under the leading seventeenth century Dutch painter Gerrit Dou (painter of The Physician). Naiveu’s tavern scene presents a moral lesson: the child implores his mother and a man who may be his father to put their intoxication aside, and give him a better chance in life. This is one of many works presented to the Gallery by the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1932. It was bequeathed to the society by Scottish-born Major Archibald C. D. Spencer (1861–1929). Major Spencer retired from service with the Royal Irish Rifles in South Africa, Canada and Malta and settled at Mount Peel in South Canterbury.
Collection
Nathaniel Webb, Esq., of Roundhill Grange, Charlton Musgrove, Somerset
Artist Unknown Nathaniel Webb, Esq., of Roundhill Grange, Charlton Musgrove, Somerset
Nathaniel Webb, the subject of this striking 300-year-old portrait, was a Bristol merchant who – like many of his peers in this period – is known to have made a vast fortune through West Indies sugar and slavery. Webb’s portrait was donated in 2007 by a direct descendant, in honour of her father John Jekyll Cuddon, a respected Christchurch chartered accountant. The painting came to New Zealand with Henry Joseph C. Jekyll, who immigrated to Canterbury in 1862, and in 1880 purchased a large parcel of farmland beyond the edges of Christchurch, naming it Dallington after an old family estate. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
The Physician
Gerrit Dou The Physician
Gerrit Dou, a leading figure in Dutch painting ’s Golden Age, was Rembrandt’s first pupil for three years from the age of fourteen in 1628. Before long, he had eclipsed his master’s reputation; his meticulous, highly detailed paintings were prized by the wealthiest collectors. The Physician’s earliest documented owner is Somerset- born Henry Francis Gray, who reached Port Lyttelton aged eighteen in 1856 and went into farming in Canterbury. 25 years later, Gray was commended in local newspapers for lending this treasure for the Canterbury Society of Arts’ first exhibition in 1881. Passing through family lines, it was bequeathed to the Gallery in 1965 by his great-nephew, the prominent Christchurch architect Heathcote Helmore. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Girl with a Mask
William Powell Frith Girl with a Mask
Girl with a Mask is an early work by the Yorkshire-born William Frith, who became one of the most popular Victorian artists, best-known for his densely populated scenes of contemporary English life. The purchase of this painting was enabled by Olive Stirrat (1900–1982), a Gallery Friends life member whose $90,000 bequest became the largest single gift after Robert McDougall’s presentation of the original gallery itself. Between 1983 and 2008 the endowment supported the purchase of 72 historical works by artists including: Francisco de Goya, Charles Meryon, Odilon Redon, Petrus van der Velden, Margaret Stoddart, Raymond McIntyre, Käthe Kollwitz, Claude Flight, Frances Hodgkins and Rita Angus. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
The Black Hat
George Henry The Black Hat
In about 1901, having established a strong reputation with his painting in Scotland, the Glasgow-based George Henry relocated to London, where he began to establish a successful society portrait practice. The Black Hat – possibly the work exhibited to acclaim as ‘La dame au chapeau noir’ at the Royal Glasgow Institute in 1904 – was one of twelve paintings selected in 1911 by the English artist Niels Lund to be purchased for the Canterbury Society of Arts. Its acquisition in 1912 was enabled through a newly agreed £50 annual subsidy from the Christchurch City Council; the society presented the painting to the city's new public gallery in 1932. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
A Wooded Landscape with Peasants on a Path and an Angler at a Stream
Meindert Hobbema A Wooded Landscape with Peasants on a Path and an Angler at a Stream
Although little recognised in his own lifetime, the Amsterdam-based Meindert Hobbema is now celebrated as one of the greatest landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Hobbema’s exclusive focus on countryside relates to the extraordinary growth of Dutch cities and towns in this period, and a newfound interest in idealised depictions of rural life. This exquisite landscape painting came to New Zealand after being purchased at auction in London in 1908 by the Dunedin-trained architect and art teacher David Edward Hutton (1866–1946). Its acquisition for the collection was enabled through funds generously bequeathed by his daughter Kathleen Stuart Hutton (1903–1992). (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Unshatterable (Belgian Refugees)
Frances Hodgkins Unshatterable (Belgian Refugees)
The Dunedin-born Frances Hodgkins was running her own watercolour painting school in Paris when World War I broke out in 1914. She relocated to St. Ives in Cornwall, where she found many displaced Belgian families also living, and painted this work in response to their wretched plight. Unshatterable, one of her first oil paintings, was exhibited in London in 1916 and purchased by the painter Sir Cedric Morris. Dr Rodney Wilson, the Gallery’s director in 1980, visited Morris, and with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, a British art charity, successfully secured this work for the Christchurch collection. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Mrs Barbara Walker of Bowland
Sir Henry Raeburn Mrs Barbara Walker of Bowland
The 55-year-old Alexander Walker (1764–1831) and his wife Barbara (née Montgomery, 1770–1831) commissioned Scotland’s leading portraitist, Henry Raeburn, to paint their portraits in 1819. They had married eight years earlier; shortly after Alexander’s retirement from over thirty years’ service with the East India Company – mostly in India – and had two young sons. Alexander had one final Company role before him, that of Governor of St. Helena from 1823–28. Two of their grandsons, William Campbell Walker and Alexander John Walker, immigrated to New Zealand in 1862 to farm in Canterbury; William later became Minister of Education. These impressive ancestral portraits were presented by descendants in 1984. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Dante’s Beatrice
U Biagini Dante’s Beatrice
Previously attributed to the Rome-based sculptor Alfredo Biagini, Dante’s Beatrice is now recognised as the work of a lesser-known but nevertheless highly accomplished artist U. Biagini working in Florence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Representing Beatrice, who captured the heart of the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri, it is a fine example of the Florentine sculptor’s idealised marble busts. Dante’s Beatrice was given to the city through the bequest of the retired Christchurch merchant and importer John Alexander Redpath (1875–1975). (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Psyche
Auguste Rodin Psyche
Psyche, in Greek mythology, was a mortal princess whose beauty attracted the attention of Eros, the god of love, and the jealous anger of his mother Aphrodite. The renowned Parisian sculptor Auguste Rodin worked on variations on the theme of Psyche between 1886 and 1905. This bronze is a later casting, produced by the Musée Rodin at a foundry in Paris in 1961. Psyche was purchased by the New Zealand Government in 1962 through a fund established to strengthen learning and cultural relations between New Zealand and France. After being exhibited in Christchurch in 1963, this city became the sculpture’s permanent home. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Roses, Honeysuckle and other flowers in a sculpted vase
Jan Frans van Son Roses, Honeysuckle and other flowers in a sculpted vase
The Antwerp-born painter Jan Frans van Son was the son of the leading Flemish still life painter Joris van Son. He built a reputation with his own still life paintings in London, finding profitable patronage in England through his marriage to a niece of Robert Streater, sergeant-painter to Charles II. The purchase of this work in London in 1973 was instigated by the Ngāpuhi art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki during his studies at the Courtauld Institute. It was funded by the National Art Collections Fund, a British art charity that supported purchases for galleries in this country for a reasonable period – for Christchurch as late as 1994. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Bacchus and Ariadne
Jacopo Amigoni Bacchus and Ariadne
Bacchus, the god of wine, leans in drunken stupor against Ariadne, the Cretan princess who became his immortal bride; here warning the cherubs not to awaken him. The Naples-born Jacopo Amigoni specialised in classical scenes in a decorative Venetian rococo style. Bacchus and Ariadne was likely painted during his time in London in the 1730s. This painting was given in memory of its former owner Kenelm Neave, an eminent local solicitor who died tragically in 1931. He was the great-great grandson of the London merchant and Governor of the Bank of England Sir Richard Neave (1731–1814), who laid the foundations of a vast family fortune through West Indies sugar plantations. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Suzette
Raymond McIntyre Suzette
Arriving in London in 1909, the Christchurch-born and trained Raymond McIntyre soon gained a reputation there for his small, pared-back landscapes and studies of female heads, painted in an elegant, simplified, Japanese woodblock inspired style. These three paintings were modelled on an actor and dancer who became his principal muse from 1912, sometimes mentioned in his letters home: “The girl who is sitting for me a lot now, Sylvia Constance Cavendish… has a very refined interesting pale face… I have done some very good work from her… she is quite a find.” McIntyre died in London in 1933. Seven of his works were given by his family between 1938 and 1991. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Soldiers in a Village
Joost Cornelisz Droochsloot Soldiers in a Village
Joost Droochsloot’s Soldiers in a Village lays out the enduring theme of the upheavals of war, with families being ejected from their homes by roving soldiers in a Dutch village in the 1640s; an ordeal commonly experienced during the Thirty Years’ War in central Europe (1618–48). This painting was once owned by the Scottish-born, former Wellington art dealer McGregor Wright, a mayor of Woolston between 1910 and 1921 and a prominent local art supporter. Wright presented the painting to the Christchurch Technical Institute (later Christchurch Polytechnic) in 1935. In 1996 it was purchased for the collection by Gallery patrons Gabrielle and Adriaan Tasman, who also sponsored its conservation and repair. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
The Age of innocence
Alfred Drury The Age of innocence
Modelled by Alfred Drury after a friend’s daughter in fancy dress, this wistful bronze bust is one of many variations of The Age of Innocence he made between 1897 and 1918; some in white marble. It is regarded as an important work in the British New Sculpture movement, whose followers sought either greater naturalism or symbolic qualities than had been found in the prevailing neoclassical approach. Brought from England to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition, it was purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts, and presented to the city in 1932 to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland
Sir Henry Raeburn Brigadier-General Alexander Walker of Bowland
The 55-year-old Alexander Walker (1764–1831) and his wife Barbara (née Montgomery, 1770–1831) commissioned Scotland’s leading portraitist, Henry Raeburn, to paint their portraits in 1819. They had married eight years earlier; shortly after Alexander’s retirement from over thirty years’ service with the East India Company – mostly in India – and had two young sons. Alexander had one final Company role before him, that of Governor of St. Helena from 1823–28. Two of their grandsons, William Campbell Walker and Alexander John Walker, immigrated to New Zealand in 1862 to farm in Canterbury; William later became Minister of Education. These impressive ancestral portraits were presented by descendants in 1984. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
A View in Cologne with St. Gereon's Basilica
Gerrit Adriaenszoon Berckheyde A View in Cologne with St. Gereon's Basilica
Gerrit Berckheyde’s contribution to the Dutch Golden Age of painting was as an exponent of the cityscape, which became a new genre from the mid seventeenth-century. Berckheyde was Haarlem-based, and began producing paintings of Cologne in about 1670, from sketches made in the 1650s. He painted a series of works depicting St. Gereon’s Basilica, a large and distinctive Romanesque style church completed in the thirteenth century. This painting was purchased through a significant bequest made in 1953 from an insurance settlement from the estate of William Ballantyne (1864–1934), whose art collection had been largely destroyed in the 1947 Ballantyne’s department store fire. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Collection
Panier de Raisins
Henri Fantin-Latour Panier de Raisins
Henri Fantin-Latour’s Panier de Raisins (Basket of Grapes) evokes the pleasure and abundance of the French country- side in midsummer and is recognised as one of the most significant European works in the collection. Panier de Raisins arrived unexpectedly through the bequest of Frank White (1910–2001), a Hororata sheep and cattle farmer and arborist who came to New Zealand from England in 1927 to study farming at Canterbury Agricultural College (now Lincoln University). White served in North Africa and the Mediterranean during World War II and never married. He left 12 paintings to the Gallery and also generously left his farm to Lincoln University for training purposes. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)
Notes
Belgian Refugees by Frances Hodgkins

Belgian Refugees by Frances Hodgkins

This article first appeared in The Press on 28 February 2007

Belgian Refugees is one of the first oil paintings that Frances Hodgkins ever exhibited, although at the time she was already well accustomed to showing her watercolours. Working in oils and tempera on canvas, she used an experimental technique in this work that gained much from her experience with watercolour. Believed to have been first shown as Unshatterable, in October 1916 at the International Society's Autumn Exhibition in London, the choice of title would suggest a greater sense of resilience than is actually conveyed by this family group. Here only the baby is oblivious to trouble, while his nursing mother seems devoid of expression, and the older children tense with anxiety or fear. Behind the group, a gap in the swirling grey suggests the fact of a missing father, and this steam and smoke speaks of displacement, the atmospheric backdrop of a train station or the symbolic clouds of war. Within the wall of monochrome, intense colour is reserved for mother and child, who also remind of one of Hodgkins' favourite early choices of subject matter in watercolour.