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Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook

STEELE, Louis James 1843–1918

STEELE, Louis James 1843–1918

Born Reigate, Surrey, son of Dr John Sesson Steele, said to have been one of the governors of the medical college at Epsom. Mother believed to have been French, and Steele spoke fluent French: his sister was Florence Steele, a distinguished metal worker who exhibited at the RA at the beginning of the century. Steele was educated first at Reigate Academy, then, on the advice of a French cousin, the artist M. W. Haussolier, he studied art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. 1867 went to Florence, spent much time, possibly copying, at the Uffizi Gallery, and was said to have married page 225 there an Italian. Lived in Paris and was probably there during Franco-Prussian war 1870–71 and during the rule of the Commune. Returned to London and exhibited at RA 1881–85, gained a certain prominence as an etcher: his most notable picture was “Napoleon on the Bellerophon” after the painting by Orchardson, who, it has been suggested, was his uncle. Probably arrived Auckland, without his wife or his son, 1886; was listed as Auckland artist 1885–88 Wise's. In 1887 had a studio in the Victoria Arcade, Queen Street, where the Wright brothers and Atkinson all had studios. Exhibited with ASA from 1887, usually one narrative painting, with portraits, and in 1901 began a series of paintings of well known racehorses. Worked also in watercolours, pastels, and painted miniatures. Taught as well as painted: C. F. Goldie was his best pupil and, after Goldie returned from Paris, Steele and Goldie painted their very popular “Arrival of the Maoris”. They were listed as “Steele & Goldie” Auckland artists 1901–02 Wise's. Steele was probably the first somewhat Bohemian artist in Auckland, and had as a friend the French speaking Kennett Watkins. At the end of his life he was nearly aways in financial straits. Exhibited: NZ and South Seas Ex Dunedin 1889–90; three etchings at Centennial Ex, Melbourne 1888–89; NZ International Ex Chch 1906–07. Work included Centennial Ex Wtn 1940. Represented: ACAG, AIML, NAG, and Hocken.