Lithographs of ornithological beauty

At a recent art auction in Wellington, Napier’s Greening the Graveyard group found their attention drawn to three coloured lithographs of New Zealand native birds by printmaker, Thomas Ralph de Vere Gulliver. Knowing that these lithographs would be an appropriate and fitting acquisition for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, and that they would fit into the ethos of the group, they bid on, and won the prints.

The lithographs are the work of civil engineer Thomas Gulliver, a founding member of the Quoin Club, which was formed in 1916 in Auckland at the Mining Chambers in Mills Lane. Other founding members of this group included print makers such as Arnold Goodwin and Albert Hooper both of whom were commercial artists, Reuben Watts, a jeweller and the architect, William Gummer. The Quoin Club artists were at the forefront of New Zealand print making until the club dissolved in 1929. The main objective of the Quoin Club was to foster the arts and crafts movement and the subject matter reflected this by focusing on the realities of everyday life such as indigenous flora and fauna, contemporary city scenes, people at work and leisure and local landscapes. The three prints were from a portfolio of lithographs of native birds produced by the Quoin Club in 1919.

Thomas Gulliver’s interest and knowledge of printmaking led to his appointment as Honorary Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Auckland Art Gallery which was then a part the Auckland Public Library. In 1927 he organized the first temporary exhibition at the Gallery of historical and modern etchings. He was described in the New Zealand Herald at the time of his death, as being New Zealand’s leading authority of the graphic arts.

When viewing the lithographs I was struck by the difference in artistic style between Thomas Gulliver’s imagery and that of Johannes Keulemans, who illustrated Walter Buller’s comprehensive treatise on the ornithology of New Zealand titled A History of the Birds of New Zealand, 1873. On opening the pages of this beautiful leather bound first edition, which is in the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, it is Walter Buller’s description of New Zealand’s native birds that exemplifies the craftsmanship and romanticism conveyed in Gulliver’s lithographs. Therefore, it is in Walter Buller’s words, that these lively and expressive birds are described below:2014.13.2Fantail, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), gifted by Greening the Graveyard Group, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/2

The pied fantail is ever flitting about with broadly expanded tail and perfecting all manner of fantastic evolutions, in its diligent pursuit of gnats and flies is one of the most pleasing and attractive objects in the New Zealand bush. It is very tame and familiar allowing a person to approach within a few feet of it without evincing any alarm. It is found generally in pairs and loves to frequent the wooded banks of mountain streams and rivulets, where it may be seen hovering over the surface of the water gathering gnats. Long may the Pied Fantail thrive and prosper in the face of cats, owls, naturalists, and the whole race of predators. For without it our woods would lack one of the prettiest attractions and our fauna its gentlest representatives.

2014.13.3Morepork, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/3

Every New Zealand colonist is familiar with this little owl, under the name of morepork. It is strictly a nocturnal species, retiring by day to the dark recesses of the forest, or hiding in the crevices of the rocks and coming abroad soon after dusk to hunt for rats, mice, and the various kinds of moths and beetles that fly at night. The ordinary call of this owl at night consists of two notes uttered with vigor and having a fanciful resemblance to the words more-pork from which it derives its popular name. The flight of the bird is light, rapid and so noiseless that, I verily believe, it could surprise and capture a mouse at the very entrance to its burrow.

2014.13.1 Kingfisher, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), gifted by Greening the Graveyard Group, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/1 

In light rainy weather the Kingfisher is in his element in the meadows. The moisture brings out the grubs, earthworms and other small animal life to the surface. From his post of observing on the fence he drops nimbly to the ground, swallows his captive and remounts to his perch, repeating the operation every few minutes and for more than an hour at a time. When engaged in fishing, the kingfisher does not plunge into the streams but dips into it lightly as it skims the surface of the water or darts downwards from its post of observation on a rock or overhanging branch. It is moreover, one of those birds that seem instinctively to resort to the habitations of man … and seeks out the new home of the settler, and becomes the familiar companion of his solitude.

I suspect from the beauty of the prints that, like Buller, Thomas Gulliver had a great love for the richness and vitality of the birdlife that abide in New Zealand’s native forest.

The Napier Greening the Graveyard group makes regular donations to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection using funds from taking tours around the historic Napier Cemetery and we are grateful for their support in acquiring these works for the collection.

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
May 2014

Walking among the headstones

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Napier Hill Cemetery 5

During January, February and March, 2014 MTG Hawke’s Bay will again host three guided tours in the Napier Cemetery. These highly successful tours were launched in November 2008 in association with the exhibition Somebody’s Darling, Stories from the Napier Cemetery, curated by Peter Wells and Gail Pope and have run every summer since.

Row upon row of hand crafted headstones contrast vividly against the startling blue of the sky, shadows cast by the varying hues and patterns of the trees and leaves produce constant movement and dance over headstones and the air is punctuated with birdsong. Spectacular views looking out towards Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak can be glimpsed between trees contorted by age and weather. The beautifully crafted headstones identify well-known local and national identities as well as the ‘everyday’ men, women and children who also have extraordinary stories associated with their lives, and their deaths.

In conjunction with the exhibition a group of keen volunteer gardeners, Jenny Horne, Jenny Baker, Heather Carter, Sue Langford, Peter Wells and Gail Pope formed the Greening the Graveyard Group. Their aim, with the support of the Napier City Council, was and is, to turn a stark grey environment into one of colour, fragrance and life.

Napier Cemetery 4

The income received from the cemetery tours each year has been used to support the museum redevelopment project and for the Greening the Graveyard Group to purchase plants to enhance the beauty of the cemetery. For the last three years the Greening the Graveyard Group have also used the funds to purchase new works for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.

Napier Cemetery 2

Napier Cemetery 1

The first item purchased by the Greening the Graveyard Group was A Study of Two Figures by George Wood (1898-1963). Wood was a New Zealand draughtsman, illustrator and artist. He is best known for his graphic stylized images which capture form and light through simple line with the use of unbroken colour.

His work reflects the concerns and style of the Art Deco movement, which fed into the modernist Avant-garde and also shows the influence of Māori culture and the Pacific Islands. Such works as this are extremely rare and particularly resonant within the context of the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust collection.

George Wood (1898-1963) A Study of Two Figures Printed in ink on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

George Wood (1898-1963), A Study of Two Figures
Printed in ink on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

The second piece purchased by the group was a repoussé tray made by Cedric Storey. Storey was an artist, panelbeater, sculptor and jeweller. He designed the Auckland City Council official coat of arms and created the much-loved dragon at the Auckland Zoo in the late 1950s. This tray is rare example of a New Zealand made piece of Arts & Crafts metalwork, rectangular in design with raised decoration at either end in the form of grapes and vine leaves.

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

This top, a sample garment from the Laurie Foon label, a designer and founder member of the Starfish clothing range was purchased for the collection in 2013. One of the many attributes of Starfish clothing was the understated detailing and relaxed lines that allowed the wearer to integrate the garment into their own unique style. The label was also known for a commitment and focus on environmental sustainability.

Laurie Foon Sample garment Silk and cotton Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

Laurie Foon, Sample garment, Silk and cotton
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

The most recent purchase, in late 2013 was the painting titled, In the Bath by New Zealand artist Murray Grimsdale. Grimsdale’s recurring concerns as an artist are the events and the people which surround him. His works are often domestic in scale and familial in subject.

Murray Grimsdale In the Bath Pastel on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

Murray Grimsdale, In the Bath, Pastel on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

The money raised over the summer 2014 tours will continue to be used to develop the collection and we look forward to sharing new acquisitions purchased by the Greening the Graveyard group over the coming year.

The guided walks are being held on the following dates at 2.00 pm:
Sunday January 26th
Sunday February 16th
Sunday March 23rd

Cost: $12 per adult, children free
Payment to be taken on the day.

Please wear sturdy footwear, a sunhat and take a bottle of water.
The tour meeting point is at the gates of the Cemetery, situated on Napier Terrace, next to the Botanical Gardens.

Tours do book out, so please book early to secure a place by calling MTG Hawke’s Bay, 06 833 9795 or email events@mtghawkesbay.com

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
January 2014

The photographs of the cemetery used in this post were taken by David Frost, Graphic Designer & Photographer, MTG Hawke’s Bay