DUNNING, William;

Founding Settlers 1840

1994
Charcoal and acrylic on paper
1035 x 740mm

This unusual work by Ōtautahi painter William Dunning was part of a 1994 exhibition titled Time Branching Time at the Peter McLeavey Gallery, Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The artist took thirteen points in New Zealand’s post-European history and treated them as if they were memorials. The statue-like figures in each work are mounted on plinths the façade of which are sketched with historical subjects or motifs. The thirteenth painting was called Waitangi Day and the statues represented the people who walked with the Queen on to the Treaty House grounds on 6 February 1990, the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The plinths appear to float in space as though the artist is emphasising his personal memorialising of historical events whose significance may be in danger of erasure by time.

In Founding Settlers 1840, the façade illustrate various visual elements that the newly arrived settlers might well have had as part of their visual baggage: a classical Greek sculptural relief of the type being plundered during the 1840s and earlier from temples in Greece (these were widely collected and represented the pinnacle of Western artistic achievement during the nineteenth century); a carved canoe prow, recalling the manner in which the settlers’ predecessors, Aotearoa’s indigenous Māori inhabitants, arrived from northern Polynesia by sea in waka; a topographical watercolour by Charles Heaphy, typical of the panoramas produced by artists in the era before aerial photography; and an English marine painting by Charles Brooking called A Ship in a Light Breeze.

The Fletcher Trust Collection is one of the largest curated private collections of Aotearoa art. The Trust makes works available online as well as via exhibitions initiated by public art institutions and by the Trust itself.

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