Raymond McIntyre

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1879, d.1933

Portrait Sketch of James Jamieson

  • 1906
  • Oil on canvas
  • Purchased, 1985
  • 205 x 255mm
  • 85/17

Read James Jamison's obituary in The Press (14 March 1927)

This following description of the Jamieson gift is taken from Good Works, (Robert McDougall Art Gallery, 1995) pages 15-17.

Christchurch building contractor, James Jamieson (1842-1927) had a keen interest in art and, (during his lifetime, amassed a large collection of pictures and objets d'art which he housed in a private gallery at his Hereford Street home. By early 1925, when thoughts of a new gallery for the Canterbury Society of Arts collection were being promoted, he came to a decision about the future of his own collection which comprised some 300 items and included paintings, miniatures, drawings, prints, rare china and furniture. Jamieson made it known that it was his intention to bequeath his entire collection to the city of Christchurch. However there was one important provision placed on the gift and that was that a suitable gallery be under construction in the Botanic Gardens by 1 May 1929. The mayor, J.K. Archer, supported the proposal and asked Professor James Shelley and Dr Charles Chilton, Rector of Canterbury College, to make a selection of suitable works. A total of 120 were chosen and reserved for the future.

James Jamieson died on 10 March 1927 and the terms of his will came into effect. These included his gift to the city. As delays arose with financing and siting the new gallery, the terms of the Jamieson bequest were invalidated. This did not prove to be an obstacle as the Jamieson family were keen that the gift should still be regarded as the city's property. On 4 April 1931 Dr C.M.L. Lester, on behalf of the art gallery sub-committee, reported to Mr William Jamieson, the other and principal trustee of the Jamieson estate, that only three paintings and possibly a fourth were suitable for the new gallery. This angered William Jamieson and he rejected the proposal totally. By early May the sub-committee reviewed their decision and decided to accept 14 works. This was later raised to 23 but still no agreement was reached. On 28 May the Mayor of Christchurch proposed that 28 of the original 120 paintings selected be accepted by the Christchurch City Council. Once more the proposal was rejected as it was not considered to be in accordance with James Jamieson's wishes.

As the opening day for the gallery approached the Jamieson family were anxious that the matter be settled amicably giving due respect to their late father. Mr William Jamieson considered the city's action to be unfair to his brother and refused to let only 28 works be accepted. It seemed that by late June 1932 an impasse in the debacle had been reached and on Monday 27 June it was the subject of an editorial in The Christchurch Times.

During July further negotiations proceeded until finally an agreement was reached between the Jamieson family trustees and the Christchurch City Council. On 5 August 1932 more than five years after the death of the donor, 28 works were transferred to the gallery from Canterbury College Hall where they had been held. The collection included some notable works by C.N. Worsley, Petrus van der Velden, Charles F. Goldie, James Nairn and Alfred Walsh as well as British and European artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

See all the works from the collection of James Jamieson.