Postal Portraits

3 June – 17 July 1994

Postal Portraits is the result of an initiative by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery / Te Pukenga Whakaata, supported enthusiastically by New Zealand Post Ltd.

As with the 1990-92 touring exhibition, Postal Impressions, the impetus for the display's thematic is the rich resource contained in the New Zealand Post Museum Collection, previously the New Zealand Post Archive. The collection which now forms part of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa collection contains the country's most complete record of historic, indigenous and foreign stamps and associated postal history material. By extension it is an invaluable treasure trove for the exploration of our constitutional growth, our social development and a record of some of the milestones which shaped our nation.

Postal Portraits uses these resources as a springboards for the exploration of portraiture in the official arena. As an exhibition it is as much about identity as it is about portraiture.

The depiction of royalty and the promotion of New Zealand's natural landscape provided the bulk of postal imagery during the first 100 years of the country's postal history. Since the 50s, however, there has been a gradual loosening of the monarchical links as we started to explore or invent an image of ourselves beyond royalty or the obvious grandiose landscape. The depiction of prominent New Zealanders on our stamps is part and parcel of more profound changes and shifts in our cultural landscape.

Through original design work, source materials for those designs such as paintings, prints and photographs, as well as associated items and memorabilia, visitors will be able to revisit old acquaintances or discover new ones.

The exhibition has been made possible with the generous assistance of Alan Meek, Jane Reynolds, Russell Watson and Eric Adank of New Zealand Post Ltd; Judy and Bill Williams and Bill Oliver of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.

('Postal Portraits', Bulletin, No.90, June/July 1994, pp.2-3)