Design Review: Volume 3, Issue 4 (January-February 1951)
Early New Zealand Prints
Early New Zealand Prints
The illustrations to this article are chiefly examples of better-known architectural and topographical prints. The author will complete the series in later issues with notes on rarer botanical prints and prints depicting ‘social occasions.’ The more technical aspects of print-making and collecting will also be discussed.
The left-hand picture is by Charles Heaphy showing sawyers at work in a kauri forest near Kaipara.
An engraving by S. L. Paydon of the Nelson Provincial Government Building in 1861. The present state of this building will be the subject of an article in a future issue.
Photographs by courtesy of The Turnbull Librarypage 97
The Wesleyan chapel and mission house at Wellington in the 1840's, a steel engraving by S. C. Brees.
In Victorian England it was desirable for the politely educated lady or gentleman to have command of the brush — to master the arts of water-colouring or drawing. To this accomplishment, then, all New Zealanders owe a debt of gratitude, for it has left us with a rich legacy of pictures, of varying excellence perhaps, but of much value in reconstructing a byegone age. It is a fact that many of the early visitors to these shores, explorers, sailors, scientists and missionaries, were amateurs who had achieved some skill in the pursuit of a congenial hobby. The astonishing thing is that the standard of craftsmanship was so high. Most of these efforts were never reproduced or published, but many of them were, with the happy result that it is possible to build up a collection of New Zealand prints and engravings dating from the late eighteenth century.
For the purpose of this short article it is convenient to divide the subject into three parts-prints topographical, botanical and social. This account must serve merely as an introduction, and a sketchy one at that, to a subject almost inexhaustible in its possibilities and interest. Granted it is difficult to find in New Zealand examples for sale of these early printings, nevertheless libraries all over the country are rich in their collections. Here the prints can be studied at leisure, taste for them developed, and eventually, perhaps, acquisition of a few be achieved through catalogue buying from London.
The first pictorial account of New Zealand was published as early as 1726 with Valentyn's engravings, followed much later by the literature and illustrations surrounding Cook's three voyages — Parkinson's engravings of Hawkesworth's “Account”, 1773, being among the best known. Then come Hodges and Webber, artists more in the romantic vein. French explorers followed the English and left a profusion of records both pictorial and written.
With the coming of the missionaries, inevitably other Englishmen followed. Most notable among these early recorders of the New Zealand scene was Augustus Earle, who in 1832 published his Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence. Earle was a fine painter and, “like French artists before him, saw the Maoris as beings of an earlier heroic age — a conception that is beautifully page break conveyed in his painting”.1
C. D. Barraud's lithograph of the Maori Church at Otaki, until lately the most beautiful public building in New Zealand. Unhappily, recent restoration has brought changes, among them the substitution of reeded glass for the fine old lead-light windows.
As the early written accounts and records provide us with the detail of life then, so these prints put it into graphic form. We ourselves, and the generations after, may thank the accomplished Englishmen who left in their paintings a legacy to any New Zealander interested enough in his country to wish to learn something of its origins.
1 McCormick: Letters and Art in New Zealand.