Richard Wolfe – Penguin Books - $80
I wrote about the launch of this magnificent book last week and over the weekend I have had an opportunity to spend several happy hours reading and perusing it.
First off I observed from the contents pages that there are two portraits from the 18th century, 13 from the 19th century, 48 from the 20th century, and 19 from the 21st century. Seems a fair sort of division.
Then come two longish well developed essays which I asked Richard to summarise for me and here are those summaries:
Our portrait painters have long faced two serious challenges; the nation’s preference for landscape subjects, and its resistance to hanging images of people on its walls. As to what constitutes a ‘New Zealand portrait’, this survey is elastic enough to consider paintings of New Zealanders by outsiders and, conversely, ‘our’ view of others. And while a portrait might be expected to show an acceptable likeness, around 1935 our most celebrated expatriate, Frances Hodgkins, depicted herself as a collection of personal objects, among them scarves and a high-heeled shoe. Since then our portraitists have adopted an increasing range of styles and inventive approaches. While some have been favoured with important commissions, others have necessarily had to paint compliant friends and family members, or perhaps subjects drawn from history. But whatever the motivation, collectively these portraits represent a unique record of New Zealanders viewed over time.
(Thank you Richard, excellent).
I guess it is something of an old fashioned design approach but it works and seems appropriate.
Random comments then as I worked my way through the book over the holiday weekend (it is a large book by the way, one you read at the table or in the lounge, not in bed!)
*All the expected artists are represented – Charles Goldie, Raymond McIntyre, Frances Hodgkins, Christopher Perkins, Lois White, Rita Angus, (three by her, the only artist with more than one image and that is fair considering her speciality and output of portraiture), Evelyn Page, Peter McIntyre, Ian Scott, Robin White, Nigel Brown, Peter Siddell, Jacqueline Fahey, Robyn Kahukiwa, Mary McIntyre, Peter Stitchbury and Dick Frizzell. There are many more of course because there are more than 80 artists represented in total.
*And for me as a layman in the arts area there were quite a number of artists of whom I had not known previously. Ivy Fife (1905-1976) for example with her beautifully executed portrait of Peter (1942).
*Nice to see one of Peter McIntyre’s famous war portraits – this one of Major-General Sir Bernard Freyberg.
*I had no idea that artist Louise Henderson (1902-1994) was born in France.
*Greatly admired the 1957 portrait by Colin McCahon of his daughter Victoria. Hadn’t seen that painting before.
*The portraits by Philip Clairmont and Tony Fomison seem to reflect their tortured souls.
*Love the portrait of Tony Fomison by Alan Pearson.
*Mary McIntrye’s portrait of Michael Smither is great fun. Smither also has a portrait included.
*Good to see one of Glenda Randerson’s portraits from her 24 strong series of authors – this one of Catherine Chidgey painted in Albert Psrk in 2000 when Chidgey held the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship.
This is a splendid piece of work by Richard Wolfe, a big, handsome and most interesting book that I am delighted to put on my bookshelf, it will be pulled down often.