WATKINS, Kennett;

Toetoe, Northland

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Watercolour on paper
270 x 220mm

The following text comes from the catalogue for the exhibition Tirohanga Whānui.

Although the precise location of this painting is unknown, its recognizably New Zealand identity including a pōhutukawa and a tī kōuka (cabbage tree) is clear. So too is the skill with which the artist has managed to delineate the foreground foliage from the background river landscape, using deftly applied, sometimes tiny, brushstrokes to provide a screen that brings the distance closer. Cleverly, too, he has left the sky relatively clear of incident in order to draw the viewer’s attention to the toetoe fronds.

Best known for his large, romantically sun-drenched oil paintings of New Zealand historical subjects, Kennett Watkins here shows himself to have been a miniaturist of some ability as well. Trained in England, and later in France, Switzerland, and Florence, he arrived in New Zealand in 1873 with assured techniques in the use of oil and watercolour and also in the difficult and time-consuming art of ferrotype photography.

Watkins lived first in the North, where he taught at Kororāreka Russell and also made photographic images of Māori. After he had married in 1877, he moved to Tāmaki Makaurau (where he also taught), then, later, further afield, to Ruatōria, Tiniroto, Tāmaki-nui-a-Rua Dannevirke, and Te Whanga-nui-o-Hei Mercury Bay.

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Kennett Watkins [l.l.]

Exhibition History

Tirohanga Whānui: Views from the Past, Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, 15 April to 15 September 2017


Fletcher Trust Collection, purchased from John Leech Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau