Maui Taming the Sun

E. Mervyn Taylor, Artist

This is one of the prints in our collection. It was made in New Zealand in 1940-1964.
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Object Detail

About the Work
“My favourite NZ artist. Maori legend was one of his main themes.The monochrome woodcuts are all wonderful but this coloured version is spectacular. No wonder they admired his work in Eastern Europe, it reminds me of USSR propaganda posters. It's a very modernist aesthetic as seen in school journals of the time. The tension and energy in this tiny work is thrilling.”
- Nicky Bousfield, 'My Choice' January 2022

Born in Auckland 1906, Ernest Mervyn Taylor's illustrations of New Zealand bird life and tales of Maori mythology were reproduced from 1940 until 1964 in the widely distributed School Journal. Until 1939 the School Journal was the Department of Education's sole publication for children. In the mid 1940s with Taylor as Art Editor, the emphasis shifted from European to New Zealand content.
Fellow artist and contributor John Drawbridge, credits Mervyn Taylor with establishing the tradition of high standards in illustration, typography and book design long associated with this publication.
Drawing upon his training as a jewellery engraver, Taylor became known for his elegantly meticulous wood engravings. In 1948 he worked with Russell Clark to produce more than 150 drawings for the book Life in the Pa. The story of a young Maori boy taken from his Northland home by a war party and raised by another tribe. Taylor contributed artworks of birds, Maori implements and weapons studies for which he had completed in Wellington's Dominion Museum, now Te Papa Tongarewa.
Taylor's talents were recognised in 1952 when he was awarded a two-year scholarship to study Polynesian art. Taylor passed away in 1964 acknowledged by friends as a quiet, unassuming gentleman totally committed to his art.
Image 340 x 265mm
Frame 482 x 378mm
three colour linocut on paper
Three colour linocut print in red, yellow and black on white paper. Scene depicts the Māori myth of Maui taming the sun. To the left of the image is a tiki face which represents the sun, fire comes out of its mouth and beams of light and flame curve around the entire image. Silhouetted in black against the bright light of the sun is a figure with topknot of hair and a jaw bone in his right hand. His arms are up and his legs spread wide in a strong stance.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Sir John Te Herekiekie Grace, Whanganui, 1982.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
27 May 1982



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