William Mathew Hodgkins

Aotearoa New Zealand / British, b.1833, d.1898

Lake Wakatipu

  • 1882
  • Watercolour
  • Presented by Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • 318 x 465mm
  • 69/07
  • View on google maps

Lake Wakatipu lies at the southern end of the Southern Alps, in Central Otago. William Hodgkins first visited the region in 1882 after the railway line had been extended as far as Kingston, on the southern shore. Painted with strong and fluid washes, the sheer expanse of the landscape without settlement was supposed to evoke a sense of awe or wonder, in accordance with the concept of the ‘Romantic Sublime’. Hodgkins was born in Liverpool. He worked at the National Portrait Gallery, London, as a clerk then, in 1859, went to Melbourne where he worked in a legal office. By 1862 he was in Dunedin. There he practised as a lawyer but was also a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable amateur watercolourist. He was a founding member of the Otago Art Society and was its President from 1880 to 1897. Hodgkins was also a prominent figure in the building of Dunedin’s first Art Gallery and in the organisation of the 1889/1890 ‘South Seas Exhibition’.

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Hodgkins was a lawyer and a keen amateur watercolourist who, after his arrival in Dunedin in 1862, quickly became involved in the local art scene. He was an important figure in the development of art in Otago and a founding member of the Otago Art Society.

    William Hodgkins painted in his studio from studies and sketches made on special painting excursions around Otago and Southland. With fellow artists he travelled widely to the remoter areas where they sought out the 'picturesque' and the 'romantic'. They saw the local lakes and mountains equalling the beauties of the Lake District, the Scottish mountains or the Swiss Alps and as he said in a speech to the Art Society: "New Zealand is a land absolutely teaming with artistic subjects...".

    He first visited Lake Wakatipu, the largest of the southern lakes in Central Otago, in 1882 after the railway line had been extended as far as Kingston on the southern shore. From there steamers were available to take the artists to other points around the lake where they were able to record the sweeping vistas of snow covered mountains and wide blue lake as depicted here.

    Hodgkins always urged the local painter to be something more than just a mere copyist of the scene before him. Nevertheless you will see in Lake Wakatipu how accurately he was able to depict the recently felled bush in the foreground of this work. Lake Wakatipu was exhibited at the 1883 Canterbury Society of Arts annual exhibition and was the third work purchased for its collection by the newly formed society.