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 October 2020 My Choice has been selected by Whanganui District Councillor Helen Craig and is available to view until 31 October 2020. Helen is a Trustee of the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust, publisher of the Awa Event Guide since 2011, and has been involved with various Whanganui Festivals and events: initiator of the RWC REAL Whanganui Festival 2011, Trustee then Event Manager of Whanganui Artists Open Studios, and Event Manager of Whanganui Festival of Glass in 2013. With a background in art, having completed a BFA majoring in Sculpture in 2009, Helen now heads up the Arts, Visitor Marketing and Central City Portfolios in her current role as Whanganui District Councillor. She states “With October being Whanganui Heritage Month, I was drawn to the images that evoked nostalgia. I’m not Whanganui born and bred, but Whanganui’s architecture and art have captured my full attention. My selection of artworks captures some buildings that are no longer here, yet we still have the highest concentration of heritage buildings in New Zealand. Imagine Whanganui even 20 years ago and what we have lost – let’s hope more can be saved for the future generations to enjoy.”
These works from the Sarjeant Gallery's permanent collection are currently on display at Sarjeant on the Quay in the following exhibitions: 'Sara McIntyre - Observations of a Rural Nurse' until 18 October 2020; 'Together Alone. Works from the collection exploring human connections in a post-lockdown world' until 8 November 2020; and 'Lighting the Fire. Whanganui Potters from the Sarjeant Collection' until 22 November 2020.
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 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 470 items including archives and ephemera. In addition there are a further 30 works by Edith Collier in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
A selection of images taken by early NZ photographer Annie Elizabeth Davis (b.1870, d.1943) from the Edith Collier Trust Archive. We believe that Annie’s sister Ethel Margaret Ellison (née Davis b.1879, d.1961) was a friend of Edith’s, as seen in one of the photographs taken by Annie of 13 year old Edith and 19 year old Ethel with their bicycles. Also within the ECT archive are written letters between Edith and Ethel. Annie Davis and photographer Emily Collis opened The Ridgway Studio in Whanganui in 1899. The studio was reported as being fitted out in a modern manner for the time and they had showcases of their photographic work on display in the street front below their studio. The pair had been working at another studio run by Alfred Martin, and Davis had previously worked for Wrigglesworth and Binns (in Wellington). Their studio was short lived and the pair sold it in 1901 shortly before Collis got married. Unfortunately Collis died shortly afterwards in 1903, possibly from complications in childbirth. Davis then shifted to Auckland and photographs by her were published in the Auckland Weekly News in 1911 and 1912. She died in Auckland in 1943. For further information visit https://www.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503426&objectid=12326071
Little was previously known about Charlotte Hardcastle (1828 - 1908) and, thanks to recent research by Professor Michele Leggott and her team at Auckland University, we now know considerably more about this early NZ artist. While the team were researching another NZ artist, Emily Cumming Harris (1837-1925) it became apparent that the two women were acquainted and that Emily looked to the more experienced Charlotte as an artistic mentor who also provided tutelage on wood engraving while they both resided in Nelson. Charlotte Hardcastle was born in Abingdon, UK, and during the 1850s-1860s exhibited flower and bird studies at the Royal Society of British Artists, the British Institution and the Royal Academy. Charlotte emigrated to Australia in 1868 where she married her cousin Edward Hardcastle (c.1836-1886) following which they moved to NZ, ending up in Whanganui in 1877 where Charlotte exhibited still life and flower paintings in the Exhibition of Fine Arts, Science & Industry, alongside Emily Harris who also exhibited. The exhibition was organised by the newly-established Whanganui Public Library and held in the Princess Theatre. Charlotte’s exhibited works were enthusiastically reviewed in the Whanganui Chronicle. The Hardcastles relocated several times for Edward’s work and after his death Charlotte and her daughter Kathleen returned to Whanganui where Charlotte died in 1908, and Kathleen remained until her death in 1932. We believe these six botanical works were probably gifted to the Sarjeant Gallery by Kathleen after her mother’s death. As far as we are aware these are the only works by Charlotte held in a NZ collection. To read more about Emily Harris and Charlotte visit https://emilycummingharris.blogs.auckland.ac.nz/
Works that have recently entered the Sarjeant Gallery collection.
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.