Por­traits tell many thou­sand words

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Por­traits of some of our his­tory’s most in­trigu­ing characters hang on the walls of the Auck­land Art Gallery and yet few know who they are be­yond the brush strokes.

The sto­ries of Maori painted by the artist Got­tfried Lin­dauer are be­ing brought to life by their descen­dants in a new Maori Tele­vi­sion seven-part doc­u­men­tary se­ries Be­hind the Brush.

Auck­land Art Gallery in­dige­nous cu­ra­tor Ngahi­raka Ma­son says th­ese are tales which need to be told.

‘‘I think peo­ple will be won­der­fully sur­prised. It’s very spe­cial – they’re hu­man sto­ries that are passed on by fam­i­lies and they are ac­tu­ally knit­ted to­gether for­ever.’’

It is hard to imag­ine that in the 19th cen­tury the artist or pa­tron would have con­sid­ered the sig­nif­i­cance of th­ese sto­ries to their descen­dants who would pass them on all th­ese years later, she says.

A por­trait of the Mt Al­bert cu­ra­tor’s own an­ces­tor adorns the gallery walls.

‘‘I really be­lieve that they’re ready for this kind of ex­po­sure. It is time for th­ese sto­ries to come through their an­ces­tors and to make their his­to­ries liv­ing,’’ she says.

Each episode of the se­ries doc­u­ments three an­ces­tors through a com­bi­na­tion of drama­ti­sa­tions and in­ter­views with ex­perts and the descen­dants.

The

fas­ci­nat­ing

lives

of Lin­dauer and the pa­tron who gifted the works to the gallery are also told.

Lin­dauer was born in the Czech Repub­lic in 1839. He was pro­fes­sion­ally trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vi­enna be­fore mi­grat­ing to New Zealand in 1874.

A wish to avoid com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice and the de­cline in por­trait com­mis­sions as a re­sult of pho­tog­ra­phy are among the rea­sons

to be be­hind thought move.

In Auck­land in the mid1870s he met busi­ness­man Henry Par­tridge who com­mis­sioned por­traits of both liv­ing and de­ceased em­i­nent Maori over the next three decades from Lin­dauer.

His aim was to cre­ate a pic­to­rial his­tory of Maori at a time when it was widely be­lieved they were dy­ing out.

Ms Ma­son says Lin­dauer

his was the peo­ple’s painter – an artist who had real re­la­tion­ships with his sub­jects and set a prece­dent for por­trai­ture of Maori.

The gallery is home to 76 of his paint­ings.

Treaty ne­go­tia­tor John McEn­teer is one of the sub­jects im­part­ing the sto­ries of his an­ces­tors in the se­ries.

A por­trait of his great­great-aunt Pare Watene was painted by Lin­dauer in 1878.

The Mt Al­bert busi­ness­man says as the el­dest mem­ber of his fam­ily af­ter his fa­ther’s death he has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pass on the sto­ries of his an­ces­tors.

‘‘As a young per­son you don’t know of that gen­er­a­tion. I see that as my re­spon­si­bil­ity to be able to im­part knowl­edge and the things I might have learned.’’

It is also an op­por­tu­nity for the pub­lic to learn about th­ese great peo­ple, he says.

‘‘In some sense the por­traits are the phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the per­son but on the other hand where’s the flesh upon the bones of the sto­ries that bring th­ese peo­ple to life.

‘‘It is the sto­ries be­hind them that you can con­nect with.’’

Be­hind the Brush shows on Tues­days at 8pm on Maori Tele­vi­sion.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Be­hind the brush: Treaty ne­go­tia­tor John McEn­teer and Auck­land Art Gallery cu­ra­tor Ngahi­raka Ma­son are help­ing to bring the sto­ries of Maori painted by the artist Got­tfried Lin­dauer to life in a new doc­u­men­tary se­ries.

Photo: BRETT PHIBBS

Im­part­ing his­tory: The por­trait of Mt Al­bert busi­ness­man John McEn­teer’s great-great-aunt Pare Watene as painted in 1878 by Got­tfried Lin­dauer. The photo is courtesy of the Auck­land Art Gallery. (Got­tfried Lin­dauer, Pare Watene, 1878, oil on can­vas, Auck­land Art Gallery Toi o Ta­maki, gift of Mr H E Par­tridge, 1915.)

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