Pickaxes and Shovels

16 February – 5 August 2018

See the lives of the early settlers and Kāi Tahu tangata whenua in this selection of extraordinary works by frontier Pākehā artists.

In 1851, the first issue of the Lyttelton Times listed an ad from the Canterbury Association looking to buy pickaxes and shovels. In this frontier British settlement, the settlers worked hard to gain a foothold in the new land and improve their lives. Land was secured, often dubiously, from Kāi Tahu people, and European settlers quickly spread across Waitaha (Canterbury). Although art was not a priority in the fledgling settlement, there survive some extraordinary examples of paintings, drawings and prints by colonial artists that provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the early settlers and Kāi Tahu tangata whenua. This exhibition brings together a wealth of colonial Canterbury works, providing a rare opportunity to view some of the region’s earliest Pākehā art.


  • Curator: Peter Vangioni
  • Exhibition number: 1053
  • Historical Collection Art Partner


Artist Profile
Charles Meryon: Etcher of Banks Peninsula

Charles Meryon: Etcher of Banks Peninsula

French explorers, natural historians, whalers and Catholic missionaries were increasingly present in the south-west Pacific from the mid-eighteenth century, but there was also a political thread in this activity. During the 1820s some in France saw New Zealand as a potential penal colony, and the project that saw a handful of French colonists settle on Banks Peninsula in 1840 made an official French presence in the region even more appropriate. This took the form of a French naval base, the ‘New Zealand station’, established at Akaroa in 1840.