MTG Friends Enrich Collection Stories

To all our MTG Friends who have generously donated to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection, we would like to say a huge thank you. Current Friend’s donations have allowed the recent acquisition of three pieces to add to the collection. These were selected as works important to highlight and expand on the stories of artists, art movements and designers already held within the collection, with significance to the Hawke’s Bay region, New Zealand and beyond.

Thomas McCormack OBE is one such artist. Renowned for his skill and application of watercolour, he is considered one of New Zealand’s most important twentieth century painters. Artist Roland Hipkins (1894 – 1951) noted that ‘His efforts…have a remarkable freshness, breadth and simplicity, with spontaneous brush work and a rare quality of colour’ Art in New Zealand 1936 (1)

Born in Napier in 1883, McCormack was largely self-taught and excelled at drawing from an early age. A severe illness at the age of 17 left him unable for many years to partake in his other passion, sports and it was around this time his focus turned solely to painting, consequently cementing his lifelong path as an artist. Thomas McCormackThomas Arthur McCormack in his studio, taken 3 May 1963 [2]

McCormack moved to Wellington in 1921 where he lived and worked for much of his life. In his own words:

  ‘An artist develops from his surroundings – the sea, rivers, plains, and mountains.   His friends and fellow artists, Wellington with its magnificent harbor, its art gallery, exhibitions and artists, a trip to Sydney of about nine months duration; these were factors in my development. A little wine, a sardine or two with their little eyes. A little bread to soften the road and help me on.’ (3)

TA McCormack painting

Untitled, c. 1906, T.A McCormack, b.1883, d.1973 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/35 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection includes many of McCormack’s works. Our recent acquisition being significant in that it is a very early piece, painted when the artist was just 23 years old. The untitled watercolour (c1906) depicts the Ahuriri foreshore, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins – Director MTG Hawke’s Bay notes ‘It is around this time that McCormack arrived at a recognisable, mature style. This work is a key example, in its own way, a big part of the overall story of the artist and the development of his career’.

Another of McCormack’s works ‘Tapestry’ can currently be viewed in our Architecture of the heart exhibition, on display until March 2nd 2014.

Our second purchase, a vase by English ceramic designer Dame Susie Cooper, adds another page in the collections story of a design period close to the heart of this region. Cooper was a prolific English ceramics designer with a career spanning more than seventy years. Beginning with a placement in the early 1920’s as a paintress at Grey & Co Pottery Company in Burslem, England Susie was quickly promoted to lead designer, allowing her the freedom to explore the geometrics and pattern associated with the Art Deco period.

By the late 1920’s Cooper had branched out on her own, forming ‘Susie Cooper Pottery’. Later merging with ‘Wood & Sons’, another local Burslem company who provided her with quality white ware, which she would transform with her vibrant hand painted designs.

Susie Cooper Cup & SaucerCup, saucer and side plate, Susie Cooper (OBE) (b.1902, d.1995), Designer, The Susie Cooper Pottery Limited (estab.1930, closed 1966) manufacturer, purchase, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 91/54ac

Susie’s company grew, eventually supplying Harrods, Selfridges and Waring & Gillow among others with her wares. In 1940 Cooper was presented with the Royal Society of Arts ‘Designer for Industry Award’, the first woman to ever receive this. Our latest addition of Cooper’s work is a vibrant hand painted, green earthenware vase, featuring a Sgraffito design of deer and foliage, a popular Art Deco motif.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection holds many Susie Cooper production pieces, however this vase is significant in that it is an example of her earlier one-off designs. This piece is currently featured in our decorative arts exhibition in the MTG Annex.

Susie Cooper VaseVase, glazed earthenware, C1930, Dame Susie Cooper b.1902 d.1995 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/39/1 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Another prolific English designer, Archibald Knox is the maker of our third acquisition. Much like Cooper, Knox mastered the balance of expressing an individual design voice while still remaining accessible to the masses. In 1899, with an impressive variety of talents, Knox began designing for London store Liberty & Co. Wallpaper, jewellery, ornaments, textiles, silverware and clocks were all part of his extensive range.

Archibald Knox

Archibald Knox, Art Nouveau artist and designer for Liberty & Co., London (1864-1933) Courtesy of Manx National Heritage (4)

The Liberty & Co store specialised in selling fabrics, ornaments and objects from Japan and the far-east, and is attributed with introducing this style to the west. This had a great influence on artists and designers of the time and by the 1890’s founder Arthur Liberty had tapped into the English Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design communities.

With Liberty’s encouragement and business behind them, these designers and the Arts and Craft movement flourished. Liberty aimed for “the production of useful and beautiful objects at prices within the reach of all classes.” (5) This was achieved by keeping manufacturing costs low, meaning lower pricing for customers at the register. This was in contrast to other Art Nouveau Pieces at the time which were generally one-off and therefore priced to match.

Liberty & Co

Liberty & Co Store (undated) [6]

Pewter Vase

Pewter Vase, c1905. Archibald Knox, Liberty b. 1864 d.1933 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/43 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Our recent addition to the collection is the above Arts and Crafts pewter vase, an interesting example of the Liberty & Co ‘Tudic’ range, blending Celtic with Oriental style c1905. During the period this vase was produced, Liberty & Co products were also sold in Hastings, Georgina White – Curator Social History at MTG explains;

From 1908 Hastings businessmen Reginald Gardiner and John A Fraser acted as agents for Liberty and Co, selling fabrics and ‘artistic wares’ first from their offices in the Dominion Buildings on Queen Street and soon after from the Arts and Crafts Depot on Station Street. The Depot showed paintings, metalwork and leatherwork by international and local artists alongside Liberty fabrics. The Depot marked the beginning of Gardiner’s push to generate and promote local arts and crafts in Hawke’s Bay’

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has generously contributed and made the acquisition of these works possible. To become part of the MTG Hawke’s Bay legacy, donate to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust or join as a Friend and enjoy the extensive benefits our friends membership offers. We are currently offering our membership package at a reduced rate (membership re-news 1st July 2014) you can find further information on our friend’s package and how to join HERE

Vanessa Arthur
Friends & Volunteers Coordinator
January 2014

[1] Janet Paul. ‘McCormack, Thomas Arthur’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Nov-2013 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m4/mccormack-thomas-arthur

[2] Thomas Arthur McCormack. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/1513-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22433154

[3] ‘T.A. McCormack’, The New Zealand Academy of fine arts, Catalogue of painting exhibition, December 1971, 2. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi W (62341)

[4] Manx National heritage site, archives. http://www.gov.im/mnh/collectionsonline/People/View.mth?entryid=2536156#

[5] The Archibald Knox Society, Liberty & Co. to ‘Liberty Style’ http://www.archibaldknoxsociety.com/page_112141.html

[6] Liberty London, Our heritage. http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/content/about-liberty/newsarchive

Here comes the bride…

Behind the scenes at MTG Hawke’s Bay we’re busy preparing objects for the nine new exhibitions that will open to the public on 21 September 2013. Without wanting to give away too many surprises, this is a sneak peek at an object that is all dressed up and ready for display.

green wedding dress

Green and black striped taffeta dress with black velvet ribbon and cotton lace trim, c. 1870, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 72/53.

With only the dress as our guide, our challenge was to recreate the body of the young Victorian bride that wore this garment on her wedding day around 1870 in Yorkshire, England. Unlike paintings or sculpture, costumes require a lot of work to prepare them for display. From flat storage to the display case, the garment must be translated into a three-dimensional object that is at once historically accurate, aesthetically pleasing, and fully supported and protected.

The first step in mounting a costume is selecting a mannequin. When making this selection numerous factors must be considered including the individual requirements of the costume, conservation concerns, interpretation, and exhibition design. Given that all costumes are different and no mannequin is perfect, the process of mounting a costume entails numerous alterations and adaptations.

When mounting a costume the most important thing to remember is that the garment dictates the support and not the other way around. Unlike dressmaking where the garment is made to fit the body, mounting a costume requires the conception and fabrication of a custom support. Given the small size of the dress, we immediately realised that our standard mannequins were too large for this petite Victorian bride and it was decided that we needed a bespoke mannequin based on the measurements of the dress. An order was placed for a torso to be sculpted with a tiny 63cm waist and a neck circumference of just 28 cm!

A customised mannequin at hand, we were still only half way to achieving the desired 1870s silhouette. Arms needed to be added and plenty of extra padding was required around the torso, however our first and most significant challenge was to restore volume to the skirt. In order to achieve the correct silhouette, we began by looking at similar dresses of the period. By the 1870s, the full crinoline – fashionable throughout the previous decade – had decreased considerably in size and the volume had shifted to the back of the dress in the form of a soft bustle. When examining the green dress it was clear that there was more fabric at the back than at the front, thus allowing for an extended derrière! Another vital clue was the hemline of the dress. Had we added too much volume at the front or at the rear, the hemline would have appeared uneven, therefore indicating that the silhouette was incorrect.

When worn in the 1870s, this dress would have come complete with corsetry and underskirts. Unfortunately it’s rare that these undergarments arrive at the museum, and when they do, they often become collection objects in their own right. As such, we needed to find a conservation-friendly solution that would mimic the silhouette created by period undergarments. A colleague suggested we try the tiered tulle petticoat that she’d made to go underneath her own wedding dress in the 1990s. This proved to be a perfect foundation and fortunately for us she’d held onto the pattern! The next couple of days were spent cutting, gathering, and drowning beneath layers of tulle. The tulle created the perfect volume but because it was somewhat scratchy, we decided to create a calico over-skirt to protect the garment. The final addition was of course the bustle, which we created with gathered polyester wadding.

Once the petticoats were in place, our attention shifted to the upper body. The most problematic area proved to be the arms as it was difficult to create a natural look whilst still providing the necessary support to the sleeves. Needless to say, stuffed calico tubes don’t hang in the same way as arms! To minimise creasing and give the effect of fullness without overstuffing the arms, we decided to create supportive sleeve puffs. For these we used calico-covered tulle which was gathered at both ends and stitched to the arms. The tulle had the advantage of being easily crushed and passed through the armholes, while still springing back into shape once in place.

308crop

Lizzie Wratislav working on sleeve supports. Green and black striped taffeta dress with black velvet ribbon and cotton lace trim, c. 1870, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 72/53.

The finishing touches included making sure that all the individual components of the mount were securely attached and were not going to sag between now and the end of the exhibition. Due to the fragile nature of textiles, in particular their sensitivity to light, this green wedding dress will only be on display for three months before being replaced by another from the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection. Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing this one on display!

Lizzie Wratislav
Collections Assistant
July 2013

An Art Deco portrait

When we imagine the Art Deco period our mind travels towards images that dazzle – a world of youth, excess and abandon; of glamorous men and women dancing to jazz and exuding Hollywood glamour.  Art Deco style – from its furniture to its fashions – is a glittering, instantly recognisable, backdrop to life.

We know too, that the 1920s and 30s were a period of enormous change.  Collective post-war grief and years of plenty gave way to the grinding poverty of the Great Depression.  A shift in energy, from the old world to the new, accompanied rising nationalism, consumerism and industrialisation.  It can be hard to understand the Art Deco images we conjure as a product, and driver, of the forces at work on the western world.

In 2012 the Friends of the Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust purchased an arresting portrait of a woman, painted in New Zealand in 1931 by British artist Christopher Perkins. 

2012.37.aa

Portrait of Annette Stiver, 1931, Christopher Perkins (b. 1891, d. 1968), purchased by Friends of the Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust, gifted by the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust Foundation, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/37

The year – 1931 – is of course the year of the Hawke’s Bay earthquake, an event to which we owe our interest as a city in all things Art Deco. As an institution seeking evidence for the development of the style within its own time and wanting to untangle its impact on lives lived in the period, the portrait is a particularly resonant gift.  

For a long time the world knew the sitter only as Mrs Michael Stiver, and the official name of the work remains Portrait of Mrs Michael Stiver. Like so many women of the period, the subject of portrait somewhat unknowable through the use of her husband’s name. However on acquiring the portrait we began to piece together her story and what we found of her charmed us. 

In the woman we know now as Annette (though always Andy to her friends) we have found someone to conjure with. In her modernity, her glamour and impetuosity and the twists and turns of her life we had a true tale with all the makings of a Hollywood film.

As a portrait of a young woman living in New Zealand in 1931, Andy’s portrait is a rare for its directness, uneasy intimacy, womanliness. Andy is not conventionally beautiful, her features are almost too strong, but we are drawn to her face – her upturned nose, sculpted brow and red lips.  Our gaze is drawn to her hands as she plays with them uneasily in her lap.  She wears no jewels; her hair is pushed simply away from her face, she sits informally, looking away but leaning toward the viewer in a loose, dark-red gown.  The simple backdrop of Calla lilies behind Andy and reflected toward the viewer intrude on us with their starkly sexual allusions.  Hints of an intriguing personality breathe life into the fragments of her story. 

Annette was born as Julia Anderson (she changed her name after leaving school) in upstate New York into a wealthy small-town family in 1901.  She was a bright and clever student.  In 1923 she married for the first time. When the marriage soured within a few years Andy began working for F L Carlisle, a rather unsound Wall Street investment company of the type that precipitated the stock market crash. 

New York in the mid-twenties would have been an exciting place for a young woman, heady times too – she was likely in the thick of the action as the chaos of Black Tuesday unfolded.   

Then, on 2 April 1930 Andy appeared in the press in an article titled ‘Given divorce Carthage woman weds next day.’ In a bold move, equal to a modern Hollywood heroine, Andy had indeed divorced her first husband and secretly married advertising executive Michael Stiver of the firm J Walter Thompson the following day.  The couple stole away to Canada and sailed immediately for Wellington.   

Michael was charged with opening a New Zealand branch of J Walter Thompson to manage the promotion of products of the new General Motors assembly plant in Petone.  It was particularly bad timing for such a venture. The shockwaves of the stock market crash followed in the wake of the Stivers as they sailed to New Zealand and sales of luxury consumer goods such as cars soon plummeted. 

1920s Wellington must have come as rather a shock to the couple, used to the extravagance of New York City.  However they soon became friends with a small circle of Wellington based artists, writers and academics.  While all relatively well-off it was a group that had little in common with the middle class conservatism of many of their peers. Christopher Perkins and his wife Berry were part of this circle. 

Perkins had been recruited in Britain under the La Trobe Scheme, a programme to import teachers from England with the intent of improving the quality of art education in New Zealand.  He had come to Wellington with his family in 1929 to teach art at Wellington Technical College.

The Perkins’ daughter Jane remembered Andy as a ‘fine boned intense little woman with a swathe of dark hair’, who, half in love with Perkins, held ‘a profound and touching adoration for himself as well as for his work.’ We might speculate that this amour is the reason for the palpable intimacy and unease evident in the painting; it suggests at the very least an unconsummated emotional entanglement between artist and sitter.   We know at least it is a work that captures something of a kindred spirit at the start of what would be an enduring relationship. Andy was a determined and admiring friend, patron and promoter of Christopher for the rest of her life.

Andy sat for the portrait over a number of days in the converted studio basement of Perkins’ rented home in Kelburn.  We see her in a home-made dress, upon a rattan chair brought down from the kitchen above, and posed amongst calla lilies picked from the garden.  After the morning sittings she would stay on for lunch with the family, bringing along her sewing machine so she could teach dress-making to Berry, and their two young daughters. 

One wonders what Michael made of the work he commissioned? Andy treasured the portrait – it only entered the open-market after her death – and years later still signed off her letters to Christopher with a lipstick saturated kiss.

Back home in America, Andy’s family lost all their money in the stock market crash.  Then, just months after the portrait was painted, the Wellington branch of JWT closed its doors due to unprofitability. The couple, ever resiliant, moved on to Australia and Michael took up the management of the Sydney branch of J Walter Thompson.

Andy and Michael soon became part of Sydney’s ‘smart set.’ Andy started writing a regular column on fashion and shopping for Sydney Ure Smith’s The Home magazine – a periodical that embodied the aspirations of ‘Modern Sydney’.  What we now recognise as the quintessential Art Deco look was emblazoned across its pages.  Its readers were not avant-garde or revolutionary; they didn’t disdain commerce but admired taste, refinement, intelligence and style. In these pages we hear Andy’s voice for the first time – witty, enticing and elegant, cajoling middle-class women into the latest fashions.  The Sydney lifestyle was a perfect fit for Andy; she had just the look and the voice for promoting an achievable local ideal and encouraging the spending that would entrance advertisers.  

After a few years the Stivers moved on to the UK (reconnecting with the Perkins who had since moved back home).  By 1940 she and Michael had divorced, Michael moving to Buenos Aires and marrying a local woman, Andy moving back to her native New York. By the mid-1940s Andy has established a career working for one of New York’s biggest advertising firms as a copywriter, eventaully heading up the department.  She married again, but divorced just a few years later in 1959.   Andy died in New York in 1996 and is buried in the family cemetery of her first home.

While we can now only catch glimpses of Andy’s life her enigmatic portrait commands attention and captures the imagination.  Her life and look is instantly recognisable as that of a twentieth century woman, and it is through stories like hers, sparked through the acquisition of such a striking portrait, that we can rediscover and reinterpret the Art Deco decades with renewed vigour.

Portrait of Annette Stiver by Christopher Perkins was purchased by the Friends of the Hawke’s Bay Cultural Trust.  The portrait will be on display when MTG Hawke’s Bay opens this spring.  This article was first published in the Newest City News, May 2013 and is kindly reproduced with the permission of the Art Deco Trust.

Eloise Wallace
Public Programmes Team Leader
June 2013

the written word

Our extensive taonga Māori collection dates from the days of the Athenaeum established in 1865 and includes the collections of Donald McLean, G J Black and George Ebbett. Numerous Māori related items also appear in the archive including photographs, manuscripts and collections of maps.

As a curator there are times when you stumble upon major treasure troves. This stumble was more of a casual conversation with archivist Gail Pope who brought my attention to Māori items in the William Colenso collection.

It is important to first understand the significance of the Māori language to William Colenso and his family. He arrived in New Zealand as a missionary from England and understood the importance of learning Māori to his position. Letters to and from local rangatira and other manuscripts show Colenso signed off as Te Koreneho, a transliterised Māori version of his name. Te Koreneho’s household was a Māori speaking household. His wife Elizabeth Colenso and two children, Fanny and Latimer, were all fluent speakers of Māori. Both children spoke only Māori until the ages of 7 and 8. Elizabeth, a teacher, had translated English stories into Māori, two of which, ‘The Little Wanderers’ and ‘Rocky Island’ by Samuel Wilberforce were published by the Bishop Press in Waimate in 1843 and 1844.

2

Ko ngā Tamariki Haereere Noa 1843 and Te Motu Kowhatu 1844, written by Samuel Wilberforce, translations by Elizabeth Colenso. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 38/208 and 28/207

In terms of publishing Māori material and resources to teach Māori speakers ‘the written word’ Te Koreneho undertook Māori language projects that were turning points in 19th Century development of Māori. This was a crucial time for printing in Māori as Māori people themselves were only beginning to interpret their own language in writing.

Formerly these would have been created to teach Māori to read the Bible – Te Koreneho had translated the complete New Testament into Māori in 1838. However, this work to familiarise Māori with reading and writing in their own language enabled them to do the same with English.

So devoted was Te Koreneho to developing the learning of Māori speakers that he was contracted by the Government to formulate a complete Māori lexicon in seven years for which he was paid a remuneration of £300 a year. A change of government over that time meant serious complications for the progress of this lexicon, for example, the withdrawal of the free postal service had a dramatic impact on his communication with the government. Three and a half years passed and he was notified that a large portion of the lexicon should be in the press. After he replied that this was impossible he was notified that his remuneration would cease to continue until further notice. He continued to work unpaid to the point where he was ordered to provide a ‘sample’ of his approved lexicon. He had only in retaliation to what he perceived as inappropriate treatment and in 1898 had only completed and printed the letter block A.

Mr. Colenso’s Māori-English Lexicon (specimen of); Manuscript. New Zealand. William Colenso (b.1811, d.1899) Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 45/372

Te Koreneho also printed Te A-nui a Wi, Willie’s First English Book in 1872 but only parts one and two of three. The name of this publication can be interpreted as ‘The big A of Wi’ or ‘The alphabet of Wi’. Within the series, the target language is English delivered in Māori. We can interpret from the title that the resource was dedicated to Te Koreneho’s son Wiremu, who much like Te Koreneho’s older children, did not converse in English. We can further allude to the dedication being made to the Māori children of the community, providing an important and unique resource for learning English as a second language.

Willie’s First English Book, Part I; William Colenso (b.1811, d.1899), George Didsbury, Government Printer (est. 1865, closed 1893) Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 4577

It has been a privilege for me to return to my whenua and have the opportunity to work amongst my iwi specifically, the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with our taonga Māori collection and Māori archival material.

Migoto Eria
Curator Taonga Māori
December 2012