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Te Papa acquires rare painting of Cook's voyage

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Te Papa announced today it has purchased William Hodges’ Waterfall in Dusky Bay with Maori Canoe for New Zealand’s national art collection.

Images of the painting behind the scenes, being examined by Te Papa staff can be downloaded here - captions follow in background.

The painting has been held in a private collection in England for over 200 years and was purchased for $685,000.

The 420mm x 570mm work is by William Hodges, an English painter employed as a draughtsman on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific aboard the Resolution from 1772-75. Hodges was the most important British artist to visit New Zealand in the eighteenth century.

The painting depicts a quietly majestic scene in Tamatea, Dusky Sound: a waterfall cascades through native bush into the green depths of the water and mountains recede into the distance; Southern Māori are seated in a waka, holding large hoe or paddles.

Curator Historical New Zealand Art, Dr Rebecca Rice, says this work is the earliest painting of a New Zealand subject in Te Papa’s collections, and is of national significance.

"This magnificent work by Hodges references the first meaningful encounter between Europeans and Southern Māori - an important moment in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand."

"The presence of the waka and Māori figures elevates the painting beyond a mere landscape; it enriches the potential of the painting, enabling it to speak to the interactions between Māori and Europeans during Cook’s visit," she says.

Te Papa Head of Mātauranga Māori Puawai Cairns, says the painting enables reflections on this encounter to be explored through taonga.

"It is an interesting image that reflects the early European imagination idealising the meeting between Cook, his crew, the indigenous people of Aotearoa, and the whenua."

"It is part of a conversation about contesting memories and how we want to truthfully discuss the arrival of Cook," she says.

The painting will be displayed at Te Papa in late 2019, as part of the national commemoration, Tuia - Encounters 250. This will be the first time the painting has been on public view in New Zealand since it was made over 240 years ago.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says it is appropriate that this painting has been returned home.

"This is one of the earliest artistic depictions by Pākehā of our tīpuna from southern Te Waipounamu."

"The encounter between Cook’s crew and the southern Māori families at Tamatea/Dusky Sound in 1773 was amicable. The portrayal of our tÄ«puna in this painting will be of interest to Ngāi Tahu whānui, and particularly to those with whakapapa to the deep south," she says.

The acquisition of this painting has been partially funded by the Lottery Grants Board from the Tuia - Encounters 250 fund with the support of Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu.

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