Each month a member of our community is invited to browse our online collection and select six of their favourite artworks. Each ‘My Choice’ selection, together with personal responses to the works, will be available to view on the Sarjeant Gallery website for one month at a time. The September 2021 My Choice has been selected by Scott Flutey (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe) and is available to view until 30 September 2021. Born in Whanganui, Scott is a historian with an interest in social and architectural history, and in heritage crafts and skills. He currently works as a Heritage Advisor for Whanganui District Council.
These works from the Sarjeant Gallery's permanent collection are currently on display at Sarjeant on the Quay in the exhibition 'On the Move. Modes of Transport from the Collection' on display until mid November 2021. This exhibition was curated to coincide with Whanganui Heritage Month which was scheduled to take place in September, based on the theme of transport, and provided an opportunity for us to delve more deeply into the Gallery’s archives and historical images from the collection. Unfortunately due to lockdown restrictions Whanganui Heritage Month has been postponed until 2022.
The Sarjeant Gallery holds the Edith Collier Trust collection which encompasses the majority of Collier’s surviving output. The Gallery works in partnership with the Edith Collier Trust to document, display and manage the collection, which permanently resides with the Gallery. Whanganui born Edith Marion Collier (1885-1964) was a Modernist and expatriate painter who worked alongside Frances Hodgkins and Margaret Preston in Europe from 1915 to the early 1920’s. On her return to Whanganui in 1922 her accomplished artwork and innovative ideas were met with incomprehension and criticism. She has since been properly acknowledged as contributing to the Modernist development of NZ art history. The ECT collection comprises of over 1,000 items including archives and ephemera. In addition there are a further 30 works by Edith Collier in the Gallery’s permanent collection. To view the archives go to the Edith Collier Trust Archive highlight.
Works that have recently entered the Sarjeant Gallery collection.
Archival items, photograph, letters and ephemera relating to early NZ Modernist painter Edith Collier. These items have been placed in the permanent care of the Sarjeant Gallery by the Edith Collier Trust (ECT). The Gallery works in partnership with the ECT to document, display and manage the collection, which permanently resides with the Gallery. Whanganui born Edith Marion Collier (1885-1964) was a Modernist and expatriate painter who worked alongside Frances Hodgkins and Margaret Preston in Europe from 1915 to the early 1920’s. On her return to Whanganui in 1922 her accomplished artwork and innovative ideas were met with incomprehension and criticism. She has since been properly acknowledged as contributing to the Modernist development of NZ art history. The ECT collection comprises of over 1,000 items including archives and ephemera. In addition there are a further 30 works by Edith Collier in the Gallery’s permanent collection. To view the artworks go to the Edith Collier Collection highlight.
Frank James Denton was born in Wellington in 1869 and worked as a successful commercial photographer in Whanganui from 1899 until 1927. In 1919, when the Sarjeant Gallery opened, Mayor Charles Mackay commissioned Denton to curate an international exhibition of art photography at the Sarjeant Gallery. In 1926 over 170 photographs gathered by Denton from around the world were exhibited. Subsequently 83 of the photographs were donated to the Gallery’s collection, making it the first Gallery in New Zealand to seriously collect photography. The works in the Denton collection are part of an international movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries called Pictorialism, These photographers aimed to elevate the status of photography as a true art form rather than as a mere record of reality. As a result many Pictorialist prints were produced using technically complex and experimental methods. Following close examination by photographic conservator Mark Strange in 2017-2018 the works in this collection now have detailed media descriptions. This collection is of international significance as New Zealand's largest, finest and most comprehensive public collection of Pictorialist photographs.
The majority of the Sarjeant Gallery’s holdings of international artwork focuses on 18 th and 19 th Century British and European art. As a result of the early collecting trips to Europe by Ellen Neame (Henry Sarjeant’s widow) and John Armstrong Neame (her new husband) between 1913 – 1930, quite a number of the earlier works in the collection represent the conservative colonial taste in art at the time. The Gallery has continued to add to this collection both as a result of bequests and active purchases.
Early in 1917, in an effort to secure works for the Sarjeant Gallery’s early collection, Whanganui Mayor Charles Mackay began a letter writing campaign to cartoonists and magazine editors in most of the World War I allied countries. The response was remarkable and by 1918, when the war finally finished, the Gallery had nearly 120 cartoons from Australia, the United States of America and Britain. These works provide a unique snapshot into the political commentary of a turbulent period in our history.
On 8 April 2021, while drilling inside the walls of the Category I listed heritage building for the earthquake strengthening post-tensioning system, the drill unexpectedly hit and broke a glass jar hidden out of sight inside the wall. Remarkably the jar contained a time capsule that had been placed inside a wall cavity 103 years earlier on 28 January 1918 by John Cornfoot Brodie (b.1859, d.1930) Clerk of Works and supervisor of the Sarjeant Gallery building project. It quickly became apparent that this was not an official time capsule but instead a deeply personal selection of items relating to Brodie, his family and the Sarjeant building project. The contents of the time capsule are on display here for the first time. The most significant is a letter written by Brodie, dated 28 January 1918, where he expresses his concern about the lack of acknowledgement of the young architecture articled pupil, Donald Peter Brown Hosie (b.1895, d.1917) from the office of Edmund Anscombe in Dunedin, responsible for the winning design in the Sarjeant architectural competition. Instead Anscombe took the credit for the design, declaring that it was his work and Hosie did not challenge him, stating that he ‘was a young man and would have his chance again’. Tragically Hosie was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele a mere three weeks after the laying of the Gallery’s foundation stone. Brodie is unwilling to write Anscombe’s name in his letter and uses a dash instead. He goes on to say that others including the foreman, contractors, chairman of the Committee and leading solicitors share his opinion. Also included were personal items of Brodie’s; items unearthed from the Pukenamu Queen’s Park building site; a rare Sarjeant Art Gallery architectural competition report, published December 1916; and a copy of the Wanganui Herald and the Wanganui Chronicle, both dated 21 September 1917, the day after the laying of the Sarjeant Gallery foundation stone. Brodie was born in Hutchesontown, Glasgow, Scotland in 1859 and married Helen Gibson Hodges in 1881 in Victoria, Australia. He resided in Whanganui circa 1903 and had three surviving older daughters as well as two sons. On 2 June 1917 Brodie was announced in the Wanganui Herald as the clerk of works and supervisor for the construction of the new Gallery building. Following the completion of the Sarjeant Gallery, Brodie was also involved in the drafting of the initial and final designs for the Whanganui District War Memorial Tower on Durie Hill. His son Archibald Douglas Brodie worked as a Barrister in Whanganui and is the father of Whanganui-born artist Joan Grehan (b.1920, d.2007). A substantial body of Joan Grehan’s artwork is in the Sarjeant collection.