Tauranga Art Gallery to showcase illustrations from Te Papa’s Buller’s Birds

12 June 2015

A Te Papa art exhibition showcasing the illustrations from New Zealand’s most famous book on native birds, opens at the Tauranga Art Gallery tomorrow. The six week exhibition Buller’s Birds:The art of Keulemans and Buchanandisplays illustrations used in Walter Buller’s iconic 1873 book, A History of New Zealand Birds and its smaller spin-off, Manual of the Birds of New Zealand.

The exhibition includes original hand-coloured lithographs by London-based renowned natural illustrator Johannes Keulemans, as well as engravings and drawings by New Zealander John Buchanan.

“We are delighted to bring these beautiful illustrations from Te Papa to the Bay of Plenty,” Tauranga Art Gallery’s Media and Marketing coordinator Martine Rolls says.

The touring exhibition is part of Te Papa’s broader programme to work with regional museums and galleries and showcase more of the national art collection more often.

“We work hard to ensure all New Zealanders, regardless of where they live, can see our national treasures,” Te Papa’s Chief Executive Rick Ellis says.

Te Papa Art Curator Dr Rebecca Rice says the illustrations are accompanied by examples of Buller’s publications, along with specimens of the illustrated birds.

“Given how wonderfully clear and true to life the illustrations are, it’s incredible to think Keulemans and Buchanan most often worked from bird skins, rather than observations in the wild,” Dr Rice says.

The exhibition runs until 19 July 2015.

Media contacts

Rebecca Edwards, Te Papa
04 381 7071

Martine Rolls, Tauranga Art Gallery
021 492 040

Notes to editors

A selection of high resolution images are available from Collections Online. Please note that the conditions of using images are:

  1. Single use only

  2. Not to be kept on file

  3. No cropping, manipulating or over printing

  4. Full credit to be included with images.

Johannes G Keulemans, ‘Stitchbird, Pogonornis cincta (male and female)’, 1873. Hand coloured lithograph from A History of the Birds of New Zealand, 1st edition. Te Papa (1992-0035-1094/2)

Johannes G Keulemans, ‘Ruru, morepork, Spiloglaux Novae Zealandiae, and whekau, laughing owl Sceloglaux albifacies’ 1873. Hand coloured lithograph from A History of the Birds of New Zealand, 1st edition. Te Papa (1992-0035-1093/3)

Eudyptula minor (Little penguin). Crested penguin. Formerly Blue penguin. Crested penguin., 1865 -1882, by John Buchanan. Te Papa (1992-0035-2279/59)

Background on Walter Buller and A History of New Zealand Birds

More than 140 years ago, two men created what remains New Zealand’s most famous book on native birds.

A History of the Birds of New Zealand combined the passion and knowledge of ornithologist Walter Buller with the talents of artist J G Keulemans. The first edition, of 1872–73, attracted subscriptions from luminaries like Charles Darwin, and a second edition was published in 1888. The book was known colloquially asBuller’s Birds.

A cheaper 1882 alternative, the Manual of the Birds of New Zealand, included wood engravings by New Zealand artist and botanist John Buchanan.

Buller worked with both artists to ensure the illustrations were true to life; sending field notes and detailed comments on early sketches.