Nelson Provincial Museum is exceptionally privileged to have on display a painting by C. F. Goldie of Atama Paparangi, a chief of Te Rarawa tribe in the Hokianga. Charles Frederick Goldie OBE (1870-1947), a well-known New Zealand artist, was famous for his meticulous portraits of Maori in the early 1900s.
The painting titled In Doubt was gifted to the Nelson Provincial Museum, and people of the Nelson province, earlier this year and is now on display at TA445, the Museum's exhibition and education centre in central Nelson.
Atama Paparangi (1817-1917), a respected warrior chief, was one of Goldie's favoured subjects, painting him on seven occasions. At over six foot tall with an intricate facial moko, Atama presented a striking figure. The Auckland Art Gallery holds a photograph of Goldie trimming the whiskers of Atama in order to show the very fine details of his moko clearly (click here to see the image on the Auckland Art Gallery's website). In later years Atama became a staunch Catholic strongly advocating that his followers adhere to the faith as well. Over the course of time Goldie submitted several portraits of Atama to the Royal Academy in London and the Paris Salon.
A warm friendship developed between Goldie and Atama. The following is from Auckland's International Art Centre's website1,
. . . in 1914, on Atama's receipt of an earlier portrait, Atama Paparangi, now housed in the collection of the Auckland Museum, he wrote a poem of tribute to his friend, 'Mr Goldie, The Painter of Portraits'.
Mitimiti, Hokianga, August 3rd, 1914
To Mr Goldie
The Painter of Portraits
Ah Son! Greetings
This letter is to thank you for my picture which arrived a few days ago. Great is the admiration of my tribe at the beauty of your work. Enough! I will now express my feelings towards you.
'A voice from the skies makes music to the ear. It is that of a shining Breasted Cuckoo The Harbinger of Spring. The trees of the Forest have bedecked themselves in their summer raiment. The sea is red with the blossoms of the Pohutukawa. The Clematis in the Forest Glade have burst into flower, creating vistas of beauty. The myriad graceful trees of the Woods augment the scene. They are like unto a bridal pair with their retinue, awaiting the guides who will lead them to the Perfect Happiness, which knows no end.
Such are the feelings of my heart for you. Many are the wishes beautiful and good that I would wish you but words fail. The sum of the words of greeting, of love and of good fellowship as expressed in this phase: 'May Health and Prosperity attend you and all whom you love'.
Takahi Atama Paparangi
When the painting first went on public display at the Museum five great great grandchildren, and their families, were present. These descendants of Atama, from the Nelson region, Christchurch and Wellington, were welcomed by members of Te Tai Ao Komiti representing the Manawhenua Iwi of Whakatu Marae. Archdeacon Andy Joseph blessed the proceedings and the painting in its new home. The painting, an oil on canvas in its original frame, was completed in 1918, one year after the death of Atama. The painting is expected to attract considerable local and national interest.
1 Source: International Art Centre. 2009 Early & Rare Thursday 22 October 2009. 33. CHARLES FREDERICK GOLDIE. 1870 - 1947. Online. www.internationalartcentre.co.nz/_pdf/auctions/2009/2009-10/33.pdf, accessed 2.12.2010