STRUTT, William

Study of a Maori Youth

c.1855
Pen and Wash
190 x 130mm

This sketch of a disgruntled looking Maori youth bears the inscription “Mr Hooky Walker’s trousers floated away…” (illegible). It is an informal work by an important artist despite the fact that he only stayed in New Zealand for one year. Strutt had emigrated to Australia in 1850 but five years later decided to give up his Melbourne work as a lithographer and painter of contemporary events and to try his luck as a Taranaki farmer. On 27 March 1855 the young couple landed at New Plymouth and immediately began to build a home and clear a section on the banks of the Mangorei River. Strutt’s sketchbooks (Alexander Turnbull Library) tell the story of their struggle. In these he accumulated material for historical compositions — all subjects are observed with analytical skill. In 1856 Strutt visited Auckland and it appears that soon after he sold his tools and his land and returned to Melbourne where he was to become the founder of the Victorian Academy of Fine Arts. In 1862 he left for England, settling in Sussex where he painted subjects relating to history and classical mythology.