HEAPHY, Charles

Whangaroa Harbour

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c.1855
Watercolour
130 x 205mm

This small watercolour records a bay with a ship at anchor and a newly erected raupō whare close to the shore. A Māori waka with two sails can be seen in the harbour. This is a familiar subject that appears many times during the early years of colonisation. Charles Heaphy was one of a group of artists including William Mein Smith, S.C. Brees, John Buchanan and J.J. Merret, who came to New Zealand as part of the New Zealand Colonising Company’s efforts between 1838 and 1858. To help plan new settlements and also to promote the new country at home, artist-draughtsmen were included among the migrants.

Heaphy is commonly regarded as being the most perceptive of this group. At the age of seventeen he was appointed artist and draughtsman to the New Zealand Company and sailed in May 1839 with Captain William Wakefield on the Tory. When the ship visited the Hokianga and Kaipara he produced the first examples of his extensive sketch and written material for the directors of the Company and their publications.

Although based in Wellington, he worked with survey parties in Taranaki and again in the Bay of Islands before being despatched to Nelson. In 1842 he returned to England where his illustrated book Residence in Various Parts of New Zealand was published. Returning to New Zealand, Heaphy took up land at Nelson but withdrew after the outbreak of hostilities which followed the Wairau Incident. He took part in journeys of exploration to the headwaters of the Buller River with Fox and Brunner.

In 1848 he was appointed draughtsman in Auckland and was then posted to Coromandel, where he served as first goldfields commissioner in New Zealand. As District Surveyor for Auckland in 1859, he assisted Hochstetter in his geological survey of the city. In 1854 Heaphy moved to Warkworth having been appointed District Surveyor of Matakana, then being opened for European settlement. During the invasion of the Waikato, he fought as a Major in the Auckland Rifle Volunteers and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Waiari. After the war he was occupied making surveys of the confiscated land. From 1865 to 1880 he held a number of high public offices including Commissioner of Native Reserves and Judge of the Native Land Court. He was for three years Member of the House of Representatives for Parnell.