The artist's mother Eliza Gilfillan and his second wife, Mary Gilfillan, in an interior

John Alexander Gilfillan, Artist

This is one of the watercolours in our collection. It was made in circa 1840. The place where it was made is unknown.
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Object Detail

About the Work
This watercolour relates closely to the smaller watercolour by Gilfillan of his widowed mother and his first wife Sarah, now in the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui (1943/1/1). The Whanganui watercolour was gifted by Dr H. W. Wilson and Mr J.P. Wilson, and two labels on its later backing board identify the sitters ('Eliza Gilfillan, mother's great aunt' - on a deleted label - and 'Sarah Murray, Gilfillan's fist wife at the spinning wheel'), presumably transcribed from earlier inscriptions by the artist's descendants. Gilfillan lived with his widowed mother in Scotland after his discharge from the navy in 1816, and married his 15-year-old cousin Sarah Murray in Glasgow on 31 July 1826. Sarah, who had four children, died in childbirth in 1837, and Gilfillan married another cousin, Mary Bridges, in 1838. It seems likely that the present watercolour reworks the Whanganui interior, replacing his first wife Sarah with his second wife Mary, with whom Gilfillan and his young family emigrated to New Zealand in 1841. Mary and three of Gilfillan's children were massacred by Maori at their farmhouse in the Matawara Valley, seven miles outside Whanganui, in 1847. Another infant daughter died in the aftermath while Gilfillan and his daughter were recovering in Whanganui.
- accessed 23/8/2021
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468 x 362 mm
pencil and watercolour heightened with white on paper
Watercolour showing an older woman wearing a dark dress and white bonnet sitting at a spinning wheel beside a younger woman wearing a light dress with her hair in an up-do, seated next to a table and reading a book. The woman are looking towards each other. There is a dog sleeping on the floor in the foreground and a large window with dark curtains at the left of the scene.
Credit Line
On long term loan to the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Collection of David Nicoll
Collection Type
Acquisition Date
19 May 2021



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