John MacIntosh Madden

England / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1856, d.1923

The Mailboat in a Norwester, Wakatipu

  • 1913
  • Oil on canvas
  • Bequest of Mirs E H Fernandez, 1980
  • 1140 x 1540mm
  • 81/25
  • View on google maps

It is likely that this little paddle steamer is the Mountaineer which was launched in 1899. It was one of three steamers which used to ply Lake Wakatipu in Central Otago. The direction of the smoke from the steamer’s funnel and the waves seen buffeting the boats show the force of the nor’west storm. Like many other artists in the 1890s, John McIntosh Madden often visited the area around Lake Wakatipu, where the resort of Queenstown is equally popular today. He continued to visit the region throughout his career and would have painted this work in his Christchurch studio from sketches he had made on his visits.

Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, Madden studied at South Kensington School of Art and became Drawing Master at Wakefield Grammar School in 1876. In 1877 he emigrated to New Zealand. Madden was an early member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and, in 1893, was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with sketching outdoors.

earlier labels about this work
  • John Madden first visited the environs of Lake Wakatipu in the early 1890s. By that time it had become a popular place for many artists particularly during the summer months. Madden continued to return to paint around the lake in the years that followed, working up studies in his Christchurch studio on his return.

    In this painting Madden has depicted one of the little paddle steamers, likely ‘Mountaineer’ launched in 1879, which used to ply the lake. The inspiration for the composition of this work is thought to be an 1888 engraving by the Australian artist Frederic B. Schell titled Head of Lake Wakatipu.

    Madden completed his version in 1913 and exhibited it that year at the Canterbury Society of Arts annual exhibition.

    Born at Wakefield in Yorkshire, Madden studied art at the South Kensington School of Art during 1874 -1875.

    In 1876 he left London and returned to Yorkshire where he taught for a time at Wakefield Grammar School. The following year he emigrated to New Zealand and first lived at Balcairn, North Canterbury. By the mid 1880s he had settled in Christchurch and in 1889 took up a position at Christ’s College. He remained a member of that school’s staff for 25 years.

    Madden was a foundation member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and was a regular exhibitor from 1881-1923. During the early 1890s he became associated with the controversial Palette Club.

    On his retirement from teaching in 1920 he moved with his family to live in Auckland where he died three years later.