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GILFILLAN, John Alexander
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John Alexander Gilfillan was trained in Scotland. He was Professor of Painting at the Andersonian University in Glasgow for eleven years, before migrating to Aotearoa with his family in 1841. He established a farm in the Matarawa Valley, near the town of Whanganui and Pūtiki pā. After a two-year period of good relations with Māori, a misunderstanding between a young naval officer and a local group resulted in the family being attacked by a raiding party. On 18 April 1847, Gilfillan’s wife, Mary, and three of their children were killed. His six-year-old daughter, Sarah, and seven-year-old son, John Gordon, were found walking out of the bush by a rescue party which had been dispatched from Whanganui. Gilfillan moved the surviving members of the family to Australia. Here, he used sketches made in Aotearoa to produce a painting of Pūtiki, which was later exhibited in London and reproduced as a lithograph. Two copies are in the Fletcher Trust Collection, together with a portrait of John Gordon.

Aotearoa New Zealand; Australia; United Kingdom;
Date of birth
Place of birth
Jersey, Channel Islands,
Date of death
Place of death
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia,