Pūtiki Pā, Whanganui

John Alexander Gilfillan, Artist

This is one of the watercolours in our collection. It was made in Whanganui Region, New Zealand in 1847.
Image: 282 x 411mm
Support: 700 x 800mm
watercolour on paper
This important watercolour of Putiki-whara-nui is the original of a well-known, but rare, New Zealand print called Interior of a native Village or Pa in New Zealand, published in London in 1852, shown alongside. It is also said to be the origin of a now-lost oil painting of the same subject .
The artist John Gilfillan arrived in New Zealand in 1841, having learned carpentry and engineering to fit himself for the rigours of colonial life. He and his wife and children went immediately to Petre, now Whanganui, taking up land at Mataraua, near Putiki. It is most likely that the land, provided by the New Zealand Company, had not been purchased. Despite this, Gilfillan became friendly with local Māori and made many drawings of them. Resentment at the growing presence of Pakeha grew, and in 1847 a travelling group of Māori killed his wife and three children and wounded Gilfillan and his eldest daughter. With this daughter and surviving son he left for Sydney, where he made a large painting of the pa at Putiki. This work was said to have been chosen by Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington for exhibition at the New Zealand Court in the great Exhibition of 1851 and is rumoured to have been lost in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. PS

Māori kainga (villages) have attracted Pakeha artists ever since the early colonial days. Some of these are displayed under the theme Manawhenua in this exhibition. This lithograph based on Gilfillan's original watercolour, however, is placed under the related theme of Taonga, because it refers not only to Māori architecture but also to motherhood and infants. In Māori culture, childbearing, children and nurturing are very highly valued taonga. While the lithographer has sought to provide architectural details of a kainga, including the maihi and tekoteko of whare and pataka, he has chosen to add an air of domesticity with suckling infants and mothers, both human and canine. JD
(from Te Huringa text, http://www.fletchercollection.co.nz/exhibition/turning-points/category3/john-gilfillan.php)
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Purchased by the Sarjeant Gallery Trust, 1995.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
02 May 1995


Accession Number: