Samuel Butler

British, b.1835, d.1902

Portrait of John Marshman

  • Purchased, 1996
  • Oil on canvas
  • 550 x 480 x 95mm
  • 89/162
  • 1861

Twenty-five-year-old Samuel Butler reached Canterbury from England in January 1860, and in his four and a half years here lived as a high country sheep farmer. From his remote sheep station in the Upper Rangitata, he also started writing Erewhon; or, Over the Range – the fantastical novel that would establish his literary reputation. Regular visits into Christchurch included receiving hospitality from this portrait’s subject, John Parker Marshman, and his wife Caroline. Butler painted this portrait in 1861, the year before Marshman left Christchurch to become Canterbury Province Emigration Agent in London. His role included screening the suitability of settlers and overseeing the outfitting and construction of emigrant ships; he also published two books on the essentials of Canterbury settler life. Marshman returned to New Zealand to become Canterbury’s first general manager of railways in 1868.

(He Waka Eke Noa, 18 February 2017 – 18 February 2018)

Read an article about John Marshman from The Press, 4 February 1935

earlier labels about this work
  • John Parker Marshman (1823 -1913) was, variously, Treasurer of the Canterbury provincial government, General Manager of Canterbury Railways and, in 1876, appointed Canterbury's Commissioner of Crown Lands. He was a close friend of Samuel Butler who painted several portraits of local identities while he was living in Canterbury. Influenced by Italian primitive paintings, Butler believed in a natural, instinctive way of painting, but this work anticipates his academic phase when, during the late 1860s, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools and adopted a more precise style.

    Butler was born in Nottinghamshire, England, and studied classics at Cambridge University from 1854 to 1858. He set sail for New Zealand in 1859. Butler was a significant early colonial settler in Canterbury, establishing a 55,000 acre sheep run named Mesopotamia. He was also very involved with the arts in Christchurch. In 1864 he returned to England, settling in London where he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1869 to 1876. However, by 1877 Butler had abandoned his painting in favour of writing.