Find New Zealand Artists is a comprehensive index of artist names that directs researchers to the rich resources found in New Zealand’s libraries, art society exhibition histories and published sources. It enables users to search across a growing number of different resources, ranging in date from the 19th century to the present day, on artists from the most celebrated to the lesser known. The site will continue to be updated and it is planned that other art society records and sources will be added in the future.
The New Zealand artist names in this database come from these resources:
Artist files held in these libraries:
- E H McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
- Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archives, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu
- Hocken Collections, University of Otago
- Te Aka Matua Research Library, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
- Fine Arts Library, University of Auckland
- Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury
- Angela Morton Collection, Takapuna Library
Art society exhibition histories:
- Auckland Society of Arts 1873-1969
- Canterbury Society of Arts 1881-1995
- New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts 1882-1982
- The Group 1927-1977
- Rutland Group 1938-1958
- Otago Art Society 1876-1928
The catalogues of these international exhibitions:
- New Zealand Exhibition, Dunedin, 1865
- Sydney International Exhibition, 1879
- Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880
- Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London, 1886
- Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, 1888
- New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin 1889-90
- Auckland Industrial and Mining Exhibition, 1898
- Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, St Louis, 1904
- New Zealand International Exhibition, Christchurch, 1906-7
- British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, London, 1924
- New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1925-6
These published reference sources:
- Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists by Una Platts
- Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- Prints and Printmakers in New Zealand by Peter Cape
- Landscape Paintings of New Zealand by Christopher Johnstone
- New Zealand Art: A Centennial Exhibition
- New Zealand War Art Collection Online
- Concise Dictionary of New Zealand Artists by Kate McGahey
- South Canterbury Artists: A Retrospective View
- Oxford Dictionary of Art & Artists by Ian Chilvers
- Hays Art Competition catalogues 1960, 1962 and 1966
The data sources used in this project include the key art library artist file collections that are open to the public and the main art society exhibition histories.
In addition we have included a number of key published sources. We hope to add more in due course provided they are reasonably easy to find in libraries (or online), and provided they bring new names to our list. In adding the contents of published sources, we are not so keen on simply adding more and more minor references to well-known artists who are already well documented elsewhere. We welcome any suggestions of existing published books, dictionaries or indexes which would benefit from having the artists they mention listed on this site. Our priority will be biographical dictionaries but we would consider other published sources on a case by case basis.
To find out whether work by an artist is held by a New Zealand public collection, visit Digital New Zealand.
This overview is intended to place the resources included on this site in the context of New Zealand art history. For a brief summary of New Zealand painting see the article in Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
The Western art tradition in New Zealand has its early origins in the artists and draftsmen that accompanied explorers, followed by itinerant artists in the early decades of the nineteenth century. After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, which established New Zealand as a British Colony, the number of European settlers grew exponentially but only a small number of professional artists were amongst these early immigrants. The beginnings of an art world was only really established in the last quarter of the nineteenth century: with the foundation of the first art society in 1869, art schools from the 1870s and the first municipal art galleries in the 1880s.
Art societies provided a venue for professional and amateur artists to exhibit their efforts, advertise their skills and with any luck sell their works or gain commissions. The yearly exhibitions were critical for the development and encouragement of artists, especially as dealer galleries as we know them today did not exist at this time. Their catalogues provide researchers with a tremendous record of who exhibited and what artists showed. This database indexes the catalogues of the art societies in the main centres from their foundation through to the time that their influence waned. A useful, and still relevant, overview of the major societies alongside some smaller groups, was included in the 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand. In the modern period, some artists broke away from the art societies, which were perceived to be overly conservative, establishing informal organisations such as The Group in Christchurch and The Rutland Group in Auckland.
Works of art became an important component in many of the international exhibitions held around the world in the second half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. New Zealand actively participated, including works of art at exhibitions in London, Melbourne, Sydney and St Louis, as well as hosting its own international exhibitions. The works shown were intended to demonstrate the burgeoning cultural life, inform visitors about Māori and reveal the beauty of the colony. The catalogues provide a useful overview of the art world at the time, and have recently been indexed on this site adding depth to the listings of early New Zealand artists. The significance of these exhibitions is discussed in this article in Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.
The artist files listed have been collected by the art libraries named, with some files dating back as early as the 1960s. These files consist of newspaper clippings, reviews, articles, invitations, photographs and other artist related ephemera. Some artists such as Colin McCahon and Frances Hodgkins have filing cabinets dedicated to these files, while other artists have just a few items on file. As so little is published on New Zealand art they are a trove of information, sometimes providing the only record of an artist and his or her work.
Find New Zealand Artists is a collaborative project developed by research librarians Catherine Hammond and Caroline McBride of the E. H. McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki; Tim Jones of the Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archives, Christchurch Art Gallery; and art historian Jane Davidson-Ladd.
Data was generously provided by: North Auckland Research Centre, Takapuna; Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries; Te Aka Matua Research Library, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena; E. H. McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archives, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu; Fine Arts Library Te Herenga Toi, The University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services; Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury; Dr Warren Feeney from his PhD thesis Canterbury Society of Arts, 1880-1996: Conformity and Dissension Revisited; Robin Kay and Tony Eden from Portrait of a Century: The History of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts 1882-1982 . Elizabeth C’Ailceta from her research paper The Group: An Annotated Bibliography; Ian Thwaites and Rie Fletcher from We Learnt to See: Elam’s Rutland Group 1935-1958; Una Platts from Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide and Handbook and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
The pioneering work of one of New Zealand’s first art historians Una Platts has been inspirational in developing this site.
Initial development was made possible by a grant from Te Papa National Services.
- data has been preserved as it occurs in the original source, with only obvious spelling mistakes corrected.
- misspellings or alternate spellings, where common, have been retained.
- where names were exactly the same in the different data sources they have been combined.
- where names were exactly the same within the same data sources (as occurs with the art society records) the exhibition dates have been used to determine whether to combine them.
Where a name consisted of a family name with an initial:
- duplicates where the name is common have been retained, it is possible however that these are the same person.
- more unusual names have been combined, where it seems highly likely they are the same person.
In doing this, exhibition dates have been taken into account, and if they coincide or are closely proximate we have been more inclined to integrate.
We have taken the same approach as above where one source records family name and first name and another only has family name and initial/s.
In some cases, we have been pleased to receive details directly from artists, their family members or other researchers which correct erroneous information in printed sources. We have added these new details, noted their source and informed the contributors to this site so that they may update their own records accordingly.
The data sources used draw on existing resources from libraries, art societies and published sources. Find New Zealand Artists is not a database that an artist can ask to be added to, although we welcome any corrections to existing pages. The site will be updated as new artist files are created by the contributing libraries and we hope that other art society records and sources will be added in the future. Included within the original data sources are a number of names that were outside the scope of the Find New Zealand Artists project, either because they are not New Zealand artists or they are not artists. These names have been removed. The criteria applied to determine whether a name should be removed are outlined below.
Definition of a ‘New Zealand’ artist
- the creation of work in New Zealand and relating to the country, and spending time here, may result in an artist born or domiciled overseas being defined as a New Zealand artist, eg Nicolas Chevalier and Eugene von Guérard.
- however, exhibiting works in New Zealand is not sufficient to be defined as a New Zealand artists and included on the list, eg Frank Brangwyn, Stephen Birch and Hany Armanious all exhibited here, but have been removed from the list.
As the above examples demonstrate, there is a distinction in definition of a ‘New Zealand’ artist between artists from the 19th century and more recent periods. This reflects the differences between the periods, how these artists are considered by art institutions and libraries, art practice and the transient lives many artists led in the 19th century. The desire is to keep the definition open, but exhibiting in New Zealand is not sufficient for inclusion.
Definition of ‘artist’
A broad definition of artist has been applied, with the general rule to keep those who are active or prominent in creative endeavours. This definition has also been guided by the scope the Getty Union List of Artist Names.
Te Papa’s files are broader than this definition, including curators, patrons, donors, critics, writers, etc as well as artists, architects, fashion designers, jewellers. Curators, patrons, donors, critics and writers have therefore been removed (unless they have an independent art practice), but the others have been retained.
Names - family name, first names, title
- names come from any of the data sources.
- if more than one form of the name was in the data this has been included as a variant. The inclusion of a title with a name has been included as a variant, even if all other elements of the name remain the same as this is how it occurs in the data.
- an attempt has been made to use the most common form as the heading name, and where possible for this to include a first name rather than initials.
This has not always been possible. For this reason, the heading name should not necessarily be considered the preferred name.
- as a general rule the first letter after Mc has been capitalised, and we follow the most common/artist’s usage after Mac.
- the common New Zealand practice of leaving the article/preposition with the family name has been followed when it comes to names like van der Velden and de Sainson. This runs against the Getty model of placing it with first name.
- all of the names from The Group data consist of only the family name and first initial. In some instances this has made it hard to integrate with other names. We have tried to do this by looking at the person, the period and who was most likely. In some instances, the names have not been integrated as it is impossible to tell which name to place them with.
- where an artist has exhibited under or is known by more than one family name in the data sources a page for each name is included (eg Evelyn Polson/Evelyn Page). In these instances the page which includes the most commonly used name is treated as the primary page (eg Evelyn Page) – including data source references, variant names, biographical details where known – and the other as the secondary page (Evelyn Polson) which only includes the data source references to that variant name. Where we know this has occurred we have included see also references in the notes field.
There are undoubtedly examples where the connection between artists with more than one family name has not been made, please let us know if you can make one.
- however, where an artist has more than one name, but never exhibited under that name or only has the name listed as an alternate name within the data sources, only a single page is included (eg Minnie F White/Mrs M Gash).
- if a record for an artist file listed more than one artist in the same file, the record was separated.
- if a record from an art society exhibition history recorded more than one artist exhibiting together the names were left together to indicate that this was part of the artists’ practice.
Biographical details – Birth date, Death date, Birth place, Birth country, Death place, Death country
The majority of data in these fields come from Te Papa. Some life dates also come from Christchurch Art Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery and Una Platts. - where sources disagree on life dates, both dates have been noted. Where there are multiple sources for the life dates and two agree we have followed the majority. For many artists this information is not known. Rather than hide these fields we have left the headings shown to encourage users to contact us with this information.
We do now correct errors in our original sources of information if we discover newer or more accurate details. We always record the sources of any such changes. We welcome your help in making these corrections.
While every care has been taken in compiling this list of names, errors may occur. We welcome any feedback or corrections, please contact us.
This data is provided under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ) Creative Commons licence.