The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 4 (July 1, 1935.)
With Camera and Brush
With Camera and Brush.
New Zealanders of the present and future should be grateful to those faithful recorders of its natural beauty and its Maori and pioneer life who have passed on after their strenuous and faithful work. Such artists as John Gully and Kennet Watkins, such landscape photographers as Josiah Martin and Henry Winkelmann did a vast amount in their day to make known the peculiar charm and wonder of our scenery and to preserve pictorial memories of remarkable phases of the Dominion's life and character. Such vigorous veterans of the camera as we have with us still, such outstanding men as Leslie Hinge, whose work for the Railways is before us every month in this Magazine, can speak of the difficulties and troubles they met a generation ago in the never-resting duty of photographing wild scenes and great events. It was not easy to get about New Zealand in their time when they penetrated all but unknown country in the search for something new. It is different now, with the aeroplane to conquer once inaccessible regions.
Mr. James McDonald, who died at Tokaanu recently, at the age of seventy, was one of those who had done a vast amount of good photographic work to make New Zealand known in the outside world. For six years he was almost constantly in the field for the Government Department of Tourist and Health Resorts, in the pioneer days of that office under its very energetic head, Mr. T. E. Donne, now living in London. Later he was artist and assistant director in the Dominion Museum. He was an all-round able man in the artistic side of our national advertisement work, before that much-used term publicity had been coined. He was an artist with a special liking for Maori life as a subject for pencil and brush.
McDonald's Student and Field Days.
In his young days at the Melbourne Art Gallery McDonald studied under McCubbin, and he was contemporary there with Longstaff, John Roberts and other Australian artists of note. In 1890 he married May Brabin, of Hawksburn, returned to his native Otago some twelve years later, and it was not long before the newly-established Tourist Department engaged him as the needful man for the picture-making campaign that was to make the Dominion's scenery famous. He travelled from end to end of New Zealand, he illustrated the Department's books; he was a sculptor also and modelled the heroic Maori group that decorated the main hall in the big Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906. “Mac” was not only a good artist but a good sport, a capital travelling mate, always cheerful, resourceful in camp. I write with knowledge and affection for “Mac,” for we travelled some thousands of miles together and camped in all sorts of queer corners in those days. There was the faithful trio of us, with T. E. D. to boss the party in his genial capacity as official head.