Work of art resurfaces
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.