On this page:
Rita Angus: Life & vision
Rembrandt – The Experimental Etcher
Mō Tātou: The Ngāi Tahu Whānui exhibition
Albrecht Dürer and 16th Century German Printmaking
Rita Angus: Selected works
Drawn from Italy: Mantegna to Kauffmann
E Tū Ake: Standing strong
Painting the View: Constable, Turner, and British watercolourists 1760–1860
Dutch Etchers in a Golden Age: Rembrandt and his peers
Kura Pounamu: Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand and Brian Brake: Lens on China and New Zealand
Géricault to Gauguin: Printmaking in France 1820–1900
Speed and Colour: British linocuts from the 1930s
Rita Angus (1908–70) is one of New Zealand’s most significant artists. A pioneer of modern painting in this country, she created some of the country’s most memorable and best-loved images.
To honour the centenary of her birth, Te Papa presented this major exhibition that included sketchbooks, studies, and unfinished works, some of which had never been seen in public before.
The exhibition was constructed around three themes: the early years (1929–39), Angus’ pacifist vision (1939–58), and her later journeys (1958–70).
Rembrandt – The Experimental Etcher showcased 20 etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) from the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The works were drawn from a group of 56 prints from the Bishop Monrad Collection. They were returned to Te Papa in 2007 from the Alexander Turnbull Library, where they had been held since 1923. Featuring typical religious subjects, Rembrandt – The Experimental Etcher also showed scenes of daily Amsterdam life and portraits, including a self-portrait of Rembrandt.
The exhibition toured just three venues for conservation reasons. Works on paper are very fragile and alter quickly when they are exposed to light.
More than 100 Ngāi Tahu taongataonga treasures were brought together for five years of exhibition and touring.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Ngāi Tahu iwiiwi tribe developed Mō Tātou: The Ngāi Tahu Whānui exhibition in partnership, and maintained their collaboration over the life of this stunning exhibition that celebrated the past and the present.
Four cultural values, drawn from the tribal saying ‘Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei. For us and our children after us’, were the organising principles for this exhibition. They reflect Ngāi Tahu’s contemporary understanding of their past and their future:
• Toitū te iwi – Culture
• Toitū te rangatiratanga – Tenacity
• Toitū te aō tūroa – Sustainability
• Toitū te pae tawhiti – Innovation
The exhibition invited visitors to learn about Ngāi Tahu values, and to share their vision for the future through taongataonga treasures, photographs, audio-visual displays, and art. It presented the journey of the Ngāi Tahu Whānui, who have survived and progressed from near-decimation to tribal autonomy and self-reliance.
Albrecht Dürer is considered one of the greatest printmakers of all time, admired for his technical brilliance and innovation, and for his bold, imaginative approach. His work was inspired by the social and religious upheavals of the Protestant Reformation, by classical stories, and by his own interpretation of biblical texts.
Dürer bridged the gap between the Gothic tradition of art in northern Europe and the new ideas of the Renaissance in the south, and drew on both influences in his printmaking. In his woodcuts and engravings, he used ‘dynamic calligraphy’ – complex combinations of curved lines that swelled and tapered, defining light and shade, and giving surface texture. His system of cross-hatched lines convincingly depicted shape and form, giving the human body a sculptural quality.
Dürer’s innovations distinguish his work from that of his German predecessors. His influence is evident in the work of his followers, such as Barthel and Hans Sebald Beham, Heinrich Aldegrever, Albrecht Altdorfer, Georg Pencz, and Jacob Binck.
This exhibition featured 40 works by Rita Angus covering the span of her career, from 1929 to 1969. It included paintings, watercolours and drawings, unfinished studies, and seldom-seen items. The exhibition was selected from Te Papa’s collection, and from works cared for by the museum on behalf of the Rita Angus Estate.
The exhibition was divided into three broad segments. The first included Angus’ striking self-portraits, portraits of close friends, and intimate images of the artist that document troubled periods in her life.
The second segment documented Angus’ interest in nature and landscape. Central Otago was a focus here, along with images of Mangonui, Waikanae, and Kaikoura. Many visitors were particularly interested in her flower studies and experimental abstracts.
The third segment included the late Self-portrait (1966) – an image of the artist as warrior-priestess – images of her home in Thorndon and her travels through Hawke’s Bay, and, finally, her powerful response to the destruction of the Bolton Street Cemetery.
- Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, 26 Feb – 10 Apr 2011
- Whangarei Art Museum Te Manawa Toi, 22 Apr – 5 Jun 2011
- Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History, Palmerston North, 18 Jun – 31 Jul 2011
- Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, Hamilton, 13 Aug – 25 Sep 2011
- Hastings City Art Gallery, 8 Oct – 20 Nov 2011
- Forrester Gallery, Oamaru, 3 Dec 2011 – 15 Jan 2012
- Southland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha, 28 Jan – 4 Mar 2012
- Eastern Southland Gallery, Gore, 17 Mar – 22 Apr 2012
- The Suter Art Gallery, Nelson, 5 May – 17 Jun 2012
This selection of drawings and prints from Te Papa’s collection illustrated the influence of Italian ideas about art and artists that spread throughout Europe from the time of the Renaissance. Drawn from Italy features works dating from the late 15th century to the late 18th century. They were created by artists who were Italian, worked in Italy, or derived their subjects from Italian sources.
Italy in the 15th century was the source of a major shift in thinking about art and the status of the artist. Art moved from illustrating abstract religious ideas to describing the real world. The role of the artist changed from that of an anonymous craftsman to a named individual.
Drawing became an essential part of developing images during the Renaissance period. Drawings themselves became valued as representing the visible thoughts of the artist in producing a finished work of art, and were avidly collected.
Making prints from engravings and etchings was another 15th-century development. These processes enabled artists to run off large editions of a single image, giving them an easily marketable product. For example, the engravings of Andrea Mantegna were a primary vehicle for the spread of Renaissance ideas throughout Europe.
This exhibition displayed ancestral Māori treasures alongside contemporary works. At the heart of the exhibition was the concept of tino rangatiratanga (the ability to choose one’s own destiny), which was also expressed with such words as sovereignty, authority, and chieftainship. The road to tino rangatiratanga was explored in three segments:
- Whakapapa (genealogy)
- Mana (authority, prestige)
- Kaitiakitanga (stewardship, trust)
E Tū Ake: Standing strong reflected the artistic depth and political aspirations of Aotearoa’sAotearoa’s New Zealand’s strong and resilient indigenous culture.
This selection from Te Papa’s collection of watercolours was drawn from the period when watercolour painting became established in England and reached its greatest sophistication in the genre of landscape painting.
English artists began to look at their own environment with new eyes. With better roads and communications, the development of tourism in England extended the horizons of traveller and artist alike. Formerly inaccessible regions such as Wales and the Lake District became increasingly common destinations for sketching tours, where nature could be viewed in its wild and uncultivated state.
Advances in the methods of watercolour preparation, such as premixed paints, meant that materials could be carried and sketches painted on the spot. These and other developments led to a craze for painting the landscape among professional and amateur artists alike. Landscape views – either in their original watercolour form or translated into prints – were the picture postcards of a pre-photography age.
This selection was drawn from the gift of Archdeacon F H D Smythe, and from works purchased in the 1950s with Sir Harold Beauchamp funds.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) stood at the centre of this exhibition of 17th-century Dutch etchings from Te Papa’s collection. Also on display were works by other experts in this demanding medium. The works ranged from sensitive portraits to sweeping landscapes, from biblical stories to everyday scenes. Together, they gave insights into the artists’ lives, and the ideas and attitudes of the time.
The 17th century was the golden age of art in the Netherlands. Commerce had created enormous wealth, and the country had the highest living standards, and probably offered the best education, in Europe.
This environment prompted a proliferation of paintings, drawings, and prints for a public eager to buy. Portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life appeared everywhere – in butchers’ and bakers’ shops and ordinary houses. People could buy art works at public sales and fairs, and win them in lotteries. They could even use them to pay bills.
Etching became a major medium for picture-making, and Rembrandt was the undoubted master. In his hands, etching became a fully fledged art form. Many other artists also produced etched versions of popular images of the time.
2012 marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and New Zealand. To mark the occasion, Te Papa partnered with the National Museum of China to present two exhibitions that spoke of the friendship between our two countries.
From one jade culture to another came Kura Pounamu: Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. For centuries, Māori have prized pounamupounamu greenstone for tools, weapons, adornments, and as a symbol of prestige and authority. Today, this sacred stone remains an enduring cultural treasure – a sacred link to the ancestors.
Brian Brake (1927–88) was a New Zealand photographer who rose to international fame in the 1960s. Brian Brake: Lens on China and New Zealand was his unique view of two peoples at the same moment in time. Te Papa was privileged to exhibit – for the first time in China – his iconic images of life in the People’s Republic during its first decade.
- National Museum of China, Beijing, Nov 2012 – Feb 2013
- Liangzhu Museum, Hangzhou, Apr – Jun 2013
- Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou, 19 Jul – 20 Oct 2014
- China Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, 8 Nov – 2 Mar 2014
- Shaanxi History Museum, Xian, 5 Apr – 6 Jul 2014
Brian Brake (1927–88) was New Zealand’s best-known photographer from the 1960s to the 1980s. He first made his name as an international photojournalist, working for picture magazines such as Life, National Geographic, and Paris Match.
The exhibition featured more than 165 photographic reproductions from Te Papa’s permanent art collection. It was the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of this notable Magnum photographer’s work, spanning his 4- year career.
His most famous work was on the monsoon rains in India in 1960. This essay yielded the widely reproduced Monsoon girl, an image of a young woman feeling the pleasure of the first rains on her face.
Brake was also well known in New Zealand for his 1963 best-selling book, New Zealand, gift of the sea, and, in the 1980s, for his images associated with the Te Maori exhibition.
Some of the most renowned French artists of the 19th century were represented in this exhibition of etchings, drypoints, lithographs, and woodcuts from Te Papa’s permanent collection. It illustrated the revival of printmaking that occurred in France in the second half of the 19th century.
The prints represented a diverse range of styles and techniques. They included works by members of the Barbizon school, and artists in the impressionist and post-impressionist movements. The display offered an opportunity to see work in another medium by artists who are better known as painters.
Japanese woodcuts were included to illustrate the significant influence of these prints on French artists of the time. French artists became aware of Japanese woodcuts (ukiyo-e) in the late 1850s.
By far the most significant development in French printmaking was the rediscovery of etching as a medium for creative expression. In the early 19th century, etching was seen mainly as a means of reproducing paintings and drawings. Later, landscape painters began to see it as a viable medium for making original images.
This exhibition showcased prints from the Grosvenor School linocuts in Te Papa’s collection, from 1922 to 1936. These were gifted by Rex Nan Kivell in 1951. All of the artists in the exhibition were associated with the Grosvenor School of Art and attended classes taught by Claude Flight (1881–1955).
Flight created his first linocut in 1919 and was immediately taken with the possibilities of the medium. Flight developed the use of multiple blocks and overlaying colours, but it was the expressive qualities of the linocut that truly captured his imagination. He also promoted the use of a thin oriental paper that did not absorb the ink – the layers of ink from each successive colour block built up on the surface of the paper. This ensured that the colours stayed true and vibrant, enhancing the dynamic qualities of the design.
The bright colours and streamlined design were intended to express the energy and jubilance of the Jazz Age. They encapsulated the ideas of speed and motion, taking contemporary society as their inspiration – the motor car, the speed trial, sporting action, the whirl of the merry-go-round, or the stainless gleam of a spiralling staircase.
Flight considered that prints from linocuts were a more democratic form of art – a medium that allowed the man in the street to appreciate the artistic expression of the age. As these prints used modern materials and were relatively cheap to produce, they were much more accessible to the general public, both in exhibition and as a potential purchase.