Thomas Selby Cousins

British / Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1840, d.1897

On The Dart, Wakatipu

Te Awa Wakatipu / The Dart River enters the head of Lake Wakatipu in Central Otago. It was given its English name for its swift flow by explorer and runholder William Rees in the 1860s. In the romantic grandeur of its mountainous setting it became a popular destination for artists with an interest in the sublime. Thomas Cousins visited on several painting excursions during the 1870s and 1880s. Cousins was born in England; his father, Henry, was an engraver, as was his uncle, Samuel Cousins. After some years in Melbourne, Australia, Cousins came to Christchurch in 1863. Because of the lack of demand for artists, he initially worked as a station hand in South Canterbury but eventually secured work retouching photographs, illustrating for the Illustrated Press and taking commissions for portraits. Cousins was a foundation member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and exhibited at the first Annual CSA Exhibition in 1881. (March 2018)

earlier labels about this work
  • The River Dart enters the head of Lake Wakatipu in Central Otago. It was named in the 1860s by explorer and runholder, William Rees, because of its swift flow and it was a popular location with artists who wanted to capture the romantic grandeur of the region. During the 1870s and 1880s Thomas Selby Cousins went there on several painting excursions. Working predominantly in watercolours, Cousins’ careful and precise work reflects his training at the Royal Academy Schools, London. Cousins was born in England. His father, Henry, was an engraver, as was his uncle, Samuel Cousins. After some years in Melbourne, Australia, Cousins came to Christchurch in 1863. Because of the lack of demand for artists, he initially worked as a station hand in South Canterbury but he eventually secured work retouching photographs, illustrating for the Illustrated Press and taking commissions for portraits. Cousins was a foundation member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and exhibited at the first Annual CSA Exhibition in 1881. (Label date unknown)

  • In 1863 Thomas Cousins came to Canterbury but the demand for an artist of his skills was small and for a short time he worked as a station hand. In January 1864 he was working for Elstre's Photographic Studios colouring photographs, but in 1867 he returned to Melbourne. Within a year or so he was back in Christchurch retouching and tinting photographs but also painting watercolours, illustrating for the Illustrated Press and taking commissions for portraits. For a time he was a drawing master at Christ's College. In the 1870s and 1880s Cousins sent on several painting excursions in the South Island including a trip to Wakatipu which was a popular location for artists at this time. In Cousin's time the Dart River, featured in this watercolour, flowed as a glacial stream through a thickly forested valley before entering Lake Wakatipu at Kinloch. Cousins was a member of the Canterbury Society of Arts and in 1885 this watercolour was purchased for their permanent collection. (Label date unknown)