Grey Weather Raetihi

Lamorna Birch, Artist

This is one of the watercolours in our collection. It was made in New Zealand in 1932.
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Object Detail

About the Work
'In October 1936 Lamorna Birch and his wife Houghton set sail for New Zealand in the liner Rangitata. The New Zealand painter, Kitty Vane accompanied them on the voyage and throughout the subsequent journey, serving as car driver, painting companion and guide. Birch had been elected Royal Academician in 1934 and one of his last jobs before sailing was to arrange for six of his paintings to be shown in his absence at the 1937 Royal Academy summer exhibition. On board ship, Birch met and became friends with Sir Henry Horton, managing director of the New Zealand Herald newspaper, and Sir James Parr, the New Zealand High Commissioner in London.

When the liner arrived at Auckland on November 17th, he was besieged by reporters and photographers. "What do you think of Surrealists?" he was asked. "Never met one," came the reply. His work was already familiar in New Zealand and the press coverage was eulogistic. Some reports described him as the most distinguished painter to visit the country, while at cocktail parties and receptions he was variously described as a "master" and a "genius". Both words were picked up and repeatedly used by newspaper reporters and broadcasters. He experienced nothing but warmth and friendliness in meeting ordinary New Zealanders, and often finding unexpected links with home.

Birch's exhibition at the National Art Gallery, Wellington, opened on April 9th, 1937. The 58 pictures were hung in the main gallery. The Evening Post, under the headline "Wonderful Work", thought that "to many, to amount of work done by Mr Lamorna Birch will appear amazing." The Dominion described him as "a brilliant" artist. A few hours before the opening he met Lord Galway, the Governor-General of New Zealand, and felt like an actor before a first night in Drury Lane. "I went to the gallery in fear and trembling," Birch confided to his diary. "Thousands of people were there, the whole of Wellington." Four days later he gave a 20 minute wireless broadcast with Mary Murray Fuller, and another later on for student listeners. Afterwards, he wrote "I am a wreck" and went off to a restaurant to recover with a dozen oysters and a glass of stout.

An exhibition of his New Zealand paintings was opened by Lord Bledisloe, former Governor-General of New Zealand, at Greatorix Gallery in London in November 1937.'
Frame 605 x 740mm
Image 360 x 540mm
watercolour on paper
Painting showing a rocky river or stream with trees on the banks leaning towards the stream and a mountain in the distance.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of F.G. Maunsell, 1937.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
Apr 1937



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