Watercolour on paper
445 x 905mm
Born in London the son of Edward Gifford, architect at the firm of Ashpitel, where E.A. Gifford himself trained. Gifford studied at the Royal Academy School winning a Gold Medal in his final year and later exhibiting irregularly with the Academy between 1842–70. In 1854 he travelled in Europe and in 1877 to Sydney and eventually New Zealand, settling in Oamaru where his brother was vicar. He exhibited with the Otago Arts Society 1877–94 and with the Auckland Society of Arts 1885–88. He also spent some time in Napier. Gifford was a painter of landscapes, townscapes, genre pictures and portraits. In Lichfield, England, is a portrait he made of Bishop Selwyn.
This watercolour is primarily a landscape painting but the central positioning of the house no doubt indicates the artist’s interest in depicting the incongruous placement of such a building in a remote landscape. Otekaieke Station, not far from Oamaru, was the home of Berkshire-born landowner Robert Campbell whose holdings in 1877 amounted to 85,000 acres of pastoral lease and 17,000 acres of freehold on which he ran 115,000 sheep. He was a member of the House of Representatives and later of the Legislative Council where his contribution is said to have been marred by his heavy drinking. In 1877 Campbell built a highly fashionable Scottish baronial castle at Otekaieake containing over thirty rooms and distinguished by castellated gables and turrets.
There being no surviving drawings, the architect for the house remains unknown. Having created a spacious English garden Campbell entertained on a lavish scale but he died in 1889 aged 46 and his wife less than one year later. A nephew came out from England to manage the station which by 1908 had dwindled to 17,000 acres. In that year the New Zealand Government bought what from then on became known as Campbell Park School, a school for boys needing special tuition.