GILFILLAN, John Alexander;

Portrait of the Artist’s Son, John Gordon Gilfillan

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1844
Watercolour on paper
240 x 200mm

In 1847, at the age of seven, John Gordon Gilfillan survived an attack on his family’s farm farm in the Matarawa Valley. His mother and three siblings were killed, and he moved with his father to Australia. He later returned to Aotearoa, drowning at age 35 in a canoe accident on Lake Rotorua in 1875. This unusual portrait shows John Gordon in a smock standing in a cleared hilly landscape beside a tree stump, holding an axe. It is a telling representation in that the child is imbued with all the attributes of the zealous adult colonial settler in determined pursuit of ‘civilisation’.

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

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