Work of art resur­faces

Auckland City Harbour News - - PUBLIC NOTICES - STAFF REPORTER

It dis­ap­peared from the art world for more than half a cen­tury – but a New Zealand ‘‘mas­ter­piece’’ has fi­nally resur­faced.

The por­trait of Sir John Lo­gan Camp­bell, a for­mer mayor of Auck­land, was painted by Louis John Steele around 1903.

Camp­bell was one of the first Euro­pean set­tlers to ar­rive in Auck­land and was ac­claimed as one of the city’s found­ing fa­thers.

The paint­ing, which is be­ing com­pared to Charles Fred­er­ick Goldie’s works in terms of sig­nif­i­cance, has an es­ti­mated worth of half a mil­lion dol­lars.

In­ter­na­tional Art Cen­tre di­rec­tor Richard Thom­son said the paint­ing had been pri­vately owned for more than 100 years.

‘‘The art world knew of its ex­is­tence only be­cause Steele was pho­tographed in his stu­dio in 1903, sit­ting in front of the por­trait,’’ Thom­son said.

‘‘The lo­ca­tion of the paint­ing has been a mys­tery for more than half a cen­tury. No one knew where it was or even if it still ex­isted so we were as­ton­ished and in­cred­i­bly ex­cited when a fam­ily mem­ber con­tacted us to sell it.

‘‘It is a na­tional trea­sure and there is huge ex­cite­ment that it has been ‘re­dis­cov­ered’.’’

Steele, 44, ar­rived in Auck­land about 1886, set up a stu­dio and took a great in­ter­est in paint­ing por­traits of Maori chiefs and el­ders.

He was al­ready mod­er­ately well-known then, with ex­hi­bi­tions at the Royal Academy in Lon­don and in Paris.

He set up a stu­dio in Auck­land and took a great in­ter­est in paint­ing por­traits of Maori chiefs and el­ders.

Goldie, the most sig­nif­i­cant painter of Maori sub­jects in New Zealand art his­tory, was one of Steele’s first pupils.

Steele and Goldie col­lab­o­rated in 1898 to pro­duce what is now con­sid­ered the best-known his­tory paint­ing to be com­pleted in New Zealand.

The ar­rival of the Maoris in New Zealand caused a sen­sa­tion when ex­hib­ited the year af­ter it was com­pleted.

It largely launched Goldie’s ca­reer but it also led to a rift be­tween Steele and Goldie, as Steele re­sented the at­ten­tion his for­mer star pupil was get­ting.

Steele’s paint­ing will go be auc­tioned in Auck­land on Au­gust 8.

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