The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)
An Interesting Portrait Gallery — The Schmidt Studios Collection
With the rapid approach of Centennial year, public interest is increasingly centred on half-forgotten details of our Dominion's early history, and to the outstanding figures of yesterday, recognition and honour are due when Time's pages are turned back and “memory's voice invokes the silent dust.”
On the walls of the Schmidst Studios, Auckland, a political history of New Zealand is depicted in a unique collection of photographs—history portrayed in a photographic promenade of our country's leaders. Governors, Administrators, and Prime Ministers of New Zealand; successive Mayors of Auckland city; University Professors, and portraits of many distinguished visitors are arranged in orderly groupings around the walls of a quiet room.
A high stained-glass window with vice-regal crest seems to lend an air of solemnity to the room, the hushed quiet of a hallowed place. Pictured faces but envisage a pride that has vanished, a power of leadership that Time the inexorable has softly erased. Brilliant brain and virile manhood are presented in the full flush of achievement, and each portrait is a warm and living reminder of the rugged individualism characteristic of earlier times.
Mr. Schmidt for many years employed a good deal of his spare time to furthering this collection, counting as well-rewarded the large amount of work involved, and sustained by the hope of realising a dream, an ideal.
“I thought that the New Zealand school history could be invested with so much more personal interest,” he declared, “if an illustrated text-book, consisting largely of photographs of outstanding personages, with short and human ‘write-ups’ by a suitably qualified school teacher or journalist, could be made available for general use in New Zealand schools.”
Even to the uninitiated the laborious detail of this self-imposed task is evident when it is understood that the originals of many of the finished 12in. by 10in. photographs were miniatures or tiny newspaper cuttings, necessitating months of arduous enlargement to their present size and perfection.
Unfortunately, Mr. Schmidt has been unable to retain his first interest in the growing collection, and his intention to augment it by a cavalcade of New Zealand judges has not been realised. Reproductions of many pieces of the collection are to be found in Parliament House and in Government and Municipal buildings throughout the country.
As the new Colony's first Governor, pride of place is given to the large portrait of Captain Wm. Hobson, R.N., a photograph of the painting in the possession of the Auckland City Council. An array of smaller frames bearing such names, illustrious in New Zealand history, as Shortland, Fitzroy, Grey, Wynyard, Eyre, Pitt, Willoughby, are page 35 grouped below, some being copies of portraits belonging to the Auckland Racing Club's treasured collection.
He recalls a bazaar at the Veterans’ Home when the founder, Lord Ranfurly, and the then Mayor, Sir John Logan Campbell, indulged in a courteously witty dialogue to decide the weighty question of which should have precedence—to sit for a group of tiny photos, then fashionable at one shilling per sheet of a dozen likenesses.
How bluff Baron Islington, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., solemnly posed for a studio portrait in gold-laced uniform coat and unorthodox nether garments; how Viscount Jellicoe, G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., was vanquished by a Lancashire lass—the photographer has indeed gleaned an inexhaustible supply of delightful anecdotes.
Every Prime Minister from Jas. Edwd. Fitzgerald (1854) is pictured, and wonderful enlargement work is apparent in the half-dozen portraits—obtained through the agency of the late Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Stout, who took a deep interest in the purpose and inspiration of this collection—from miniatures in the Art Gallery, or printed from originals proudly retained by leading New Zealand families, and highly prized by the descendants of our country's famous early statesmen.
We glance along the rows of faces to encounter the piercing gaze of men who played an important part in moulding the destiny of a younger New Zealand. We see renowned names—Fox, Atkinson, Vogel, Grey (“one man, one vote”). In a stormy political era, several were returned to office, three, four, or five times, for brief periods ranging from the three days of the Forsaith (“Clean-Shirt”) Ministry to the several months of others. Ability, serenity, forceful personality, gentleness, or determination, are writ large on bearded, be-whiskered, or clean-shaven faces.
The Rt. Hons. R. J. Seddon, P.C., and W. F. Massey, P.C., Prime Ministers for the longest periods (13 years) look steadily forth from between former colleagues. Nearby is Dr. Pollen, M.L.C., whose brief authority was unique by virtue of his appointment through Legislative Council and not by vote of the people. There is a kindliness of character in the pictured face of Sir Robert Stout, P.C., K.C.M.G., who remains the only statesman to have held the offices of Acting-Governor, Prime Minister, and Chief Justice.
Mr. Archibald Clarke, Mayor of Auckland in 1872, heads a further grouping of distinguished men, among whom Mr. P. A. Phillips is notable as having been Town Clerk for twenty-four years following his term of office as Mayor. Here is presented an assemblage of men whose devotion in formative years to the progress and welfare of their city will be ever remembered and honoured by the citizens of Auckland.
University dignitaries since Professor Tucker have their special grouping, and here are many names to conjure with, such as Seager, Egerton, and Stedman Aldis, Brown and Thomas. Professors Walker, champion bowler, and Bartram, well-known early footballer, are also prominent among this company, representative of the brains and intellect of the Dominion.
Further familiar faces gaze forth from an obviously military group. After distinguished careers in Empire services abroad, many military leaders visited New Zealand to inspire in the youth of yesterday that martial spirit so predominant in the early colonial.
In a resplendent naval group Admirals Bowden-Smith, King-Hall, Sir Wilmot Fawkes, and Sir Geoffrey Blake rival American and French visitors in upright bearing and stiffness of demeanour. Excellently, photographed paintings of Abel Tasman, Captain Jas. Cook and George Eden, Lord Auckland, complete a brilliant galaxy of figures prominent in New Zealand's past and present history, and painstakingly recorded in a splendid cavalcade. In smaller perspective, this remarkable collection could be visualised in a striking issue of memorial postage stamps.
For the youth of to-day the memory of some few is perpetuated in statues, in monuments, or in colleges, but wider and more intimate familiarity could awaken in the New Zealander of the future a more appreciative interest in the achievements of these gallant nation-builders. The sincerity of their endeavour, and their steadfastness to cherished ideals, will be honoured in the approaching Centennial Celebrations.page 36