Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cultural colonising

Andrea Carlo Lucchesi (1859-1925), Love breaking the sword of hate (1900). Albert Park, Auckland,
purchased with funds provided by the estate of Helen Boyd.
The missing sword of hate was replaced in April 2015
From 25 February until 25 May, Tate Britain is the venue for a major exhibition of nineteenth century British sculpture entitled Sculpture Victorious. Although reviews to date have been less than kind, it's an opportunity to assess what has long been a neglected field of art. Sadly, notwithstanding the efforts of public benefactors such as the speculator James Tannock Mackelvie (1824-1885) and the the brewer Moss Davis (1847-1933), there are few extant examples of nineteenth century sculpture to be found in Auckland, at least in the city's public spaces. Those meagre pieces garnishing the local landscape tend to depict nineteenth century worthies such as Queen Victoria (F J Williamson, 1899), George Eden, first (and last) earl of Auckland (Henry Weeks, 1848), and George Grey (F J Williamson, 1904), and they're about as inspiring as a brick wall. However, amongst the respectable dross there are a few instances of the genre that rise above the banal. All are in less than optimum condition, suggesting that institutionally at least, Auckland is a casually neglectful steward of its public art. Three of the pieces have significant, if somewhat tangential, connections with the design - the production, mediation and consumption – of ceramics in New Zealand. All three are exemplars of the way in which British visual tropes became a part of New Zealand's cultural economy.

Gilbert Bayes (1872-1953) Fountain of the valkyries (c. 1912). Auckland Domain, gift of  Richard Hellaby, 1929
Gilbert Bayes' Fountain of the valkyries is one of these more remarkable examples of public sculpture to be found in the city. Prior to its acquisition by Richard Sydney Hellaby (1887-1971) – the self-exiled, artistic scion of an Auckland butchery chain – it had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1912 and, in 1917, reproduced – in colour – in the pre-eminent art journal of the time, the Studio. Hellaby studied at the Lambeth School of Art prior to World War I and may have been acquainted with Bayes, but the gift – of what to a metropolitan audience would have been by then a somewhat anachronistic work – appears to have been made to enhance the surroundings of the newly-opened Auckland War Memorial Museum, possibly more as a private war memorial – Hellaby had served with British forces during the war – than as an act of personal patronage.

Bayes was probably best known in New Zealand for his work as a designer of polychromatic architectural ceramics which, from the early 1920s, he designed for the Doulton Lambeth works. A selection of his architectural sculpture was exhibited by Doulton & Co at the Dunedin New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition in 1925-26. Other sculptural work also gave him a local profile: a bronze bas relief Jason ploughing the acres of Mars (1898) was exhibited at the Christchurch New Zealand International Exhibition in 1906-07 and purchased by the Canterbury Society of Arts; and a bronze and enamel figure St George and the dragon (1920) was also shown at the Dunedin exhibition  and subsequently acquired for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Bayes' work embodied early twentieth century British official taste: it was figurative but sufficiently stylised in its form to suggest a sense of progress; in its attention to detail and in its evident craftsmanship it made reference to the apogee of British cultural developments of the previous century, the arts and crafts movement. Moreover, Bayes' subjects were unquestionably patriotic - knights in armour were a common feature – deeming them appropriate for export to the provinces, for the delectation of middle-class colonial audiences.
Gilbert Bayes (1872-1953) Fountain of the Valkyries (1912) as illustrated in the Studio, 72 (1917), p. 105
While Bayes' sculptural fountain can be adduced as representative of official British art, the same cannot be said for one of the few examples of academy sculpture to be found in New Zealand, ‘Love breaking the sword of hate’ (1900), by the Anglo-Italian sculptor Andrea Carlo Lucchesi (1859-1925), located in Auckland's central Albert Park. Moreover, notwithstanding the inscription on its plinth, few are likely to associate it with George Boyd (1825-1886), an Irish-born Scottish brick maker and potter who worked in New Zealand from 1851 to 1885.
Inscription on the plinth of Lucchesi's Love breaking the sword of hate. This blandly municipal text fails to identify either the sculptor or the title of the statue
While Boyd's connection with the sculpture is restricted solely to the fact that it was acquired using funds bequeathed by his widow, Helen, it can be seen as metaphor for the way the cultural forms and technologies of Europe were transferred, appropriated and deployed by settler society at the colonial frontier. Indeed, Boyd was involved in the same process of cultural transfer, introducing not only technological and mechanical innovations but also new forms and shapes.
Frederick George Radcliffe, Albert Park Auckland (about 1903).The photograph shows Lucchesi's Love breaking the sword of hate shortly after it was installed. Other elements of the Boyd bequest, the 'outside vases', are also in evidence.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries (35-R137)
Boyd's early years in New Zealand are obscure but he appears on the Auckland Provincial electoral rolls from 1854 where he is recorded as a brickmaker although the identity of his employer is unknown. Around 1860 he set up his own brick and tile manufactory, the Newton Brick and Tile Works, on the eastern flank of the ridge forming Great North Road in Newton; the site is now partially occupied by Newton Central School.
James D Richardson [Looking towards Boyd's Pottery from Rendall Place] (about 1880).
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries (4-254)
Boyd initially made bricks using clay sourced from the 10 acre (4.05 hectare) site 'for his own use, on account of the inferior quality then being sold in Auckland at the enormously high price of £7 to £8 per thousand.' <Auckland Star (11 November 1878), p. 3> Two years after setting up the works, he began producing field drain pipes and by 1864 was advertising sophisticated sanitary wares such as glazed drainpipes, garden tiles, chimney pipes and a variety of drain fittings that were able to compete with imported wares, notably those produced by Doulton & Co in Lambeth. This advance was presumably the consequence of his acquisition of a Clayton & Howlett extruding machine. Boyd was also experimenting with his ceramic bodies, including procuring clay from 'the Bay of Islands' for fire bricks <Daily Southern Cross (21 February 1873), p. 3> and in 1864 he sought letters patent for the 'exclusive right to prepare Powdered Scoria Stone, and Powdered Scoria Ash for the purpose of being used to compound Mortar, Cement, and Plaster, and in the manufacture of Bricks, Tiles, Drain-pipes, Sanitary-ware, and other ceramic productions.'<New Zealand Herald (31 August 1864), p. 2>  By the mid 1870s Boyd's pottery, by the known as The Newton Sanitary Pipe Works <Daily Southern Cross (9 November 1875), p. 3>, comprised 700 feet (over 200 metres) of sheds, two brick making machines, three pipe machines and three crushing machines all driven by a 12 horse power Robey & Co steam engine <Southern Cross. (9 November 1875), p. 3>, along with five large circular down draught kilns. The works employed some twelve workers and consumed about £500 worth of coal a year.
Title block of an advertisement for the Newton Pottery published in the New Zealand Herald  (27 June 1883), p. 2
The utilitarian nature of his early productions were, in part, supplanted by the production of 'fancy work' including ornamental stands and flower pots. Around 1878 Boyd appears to have imported a number of moulds for vases and, when he issued a Reference price list in 1882, he listed forty two shapes of vases, pots, brackets and pedestals, including a 28cm high 'Grecian vase for pottery decoration' and a 40.6 cm high bust of Shakespeare (priced at ten shillings). Boyd's most prestigious production, known as the 'Garnkirk Wedding Vase', was illustrated as the centrepiece of the title block for his 1883 advertisement in the New Zealand Herald. Designed by the Glasgow architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (1817-1875) for display by the Glasgow pottery Ferguson, Miller &Co at the Great Exhibition of 1851, the mould was acquired by another Scottish concern, the Garnkirk Fireclay Co and, sometime in the early 1880s a copy made its way to Auckland; it was one of two models from Garnkirk that are known to have been used by Boyd.
[Unidentified designer], majolica-glazed earthenware stand made at the Newton Pottery, Auckland (about 1885).
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, gift of George Boyd (CG00639)
Boyd's industry and enterprise was recognised from the start. At the 1865 Dunedin New Zealand exhibition he was awarded an honorary certificate 'for drain pipes and tiles of good manufacture'; and by the time of the 1885 Wellington New Zealand Industrial Exhibition the Newton Pottery was so highly regarded that it was awarded First Prize for ornamental and household pottery. The jurors' observed that:
His fancy table-ware is especially handsome, some of the pitchers and vases on the stand being really beautiful, noticeably so one richly-relieved blue jug. Some copies of Wedgwood, in white on blue ground, are well made; and there is an exquisitely designed fruit stand representing storks supporting a dish [...] a really beautiful exhibit, and one of great value, as proving the existence of a real art-feeling in the manufacture of cheap and common goods.<New Zealand Industrial Exhibition, 1885, The official record (Wellington: Government Printer, 1886), p. 46>
Boyd was evidently so gratified by the reception of his wares that he gave four examples to the Colonial Museum. He did not enjoy his success for long; at the end of 1885 he appears to have been diagnosed with a fatal illness and in January 1887 advertised the factory 'to let for a term of years' noting that
The whole of the works are in first-class order, there are immense drying sheds; also steam-engine pipe machinery of every description, brick and tile presses, 2 brick machines and edge runners; also, six kilns of various construction suitable for every class of good. The town water and telephone are laid on to the works. Office, Show-Room, Carpenter's Shop, Stables, and an endless variety of plaster moulds; also common pottery clay in any quantity.<New Zealand Herald (4 January 1886), p. 1>
There do not appear to have been any takers  for what Boyd described as 'an opportunity seldom to be met with'. He died at his house on Nixon Street on 10 March 1886 aged 61, allegedly instructing his widow, Helen, to destroy 'the endless variety of plaster moulds'<G Henry, New Zealand pottery: commercial and collectable (Auckland: Reed, 1999), p. 140>. Local newspapers lauded him as 'an industrious, persevering man', 'most energetic in prosecuting the local industry with which his name was so long and honourably associated', noting that 'Deceased was a native of Scotland, and much respected for his integrity of character.'<'Obituary', New Zealand Herald (29 March 1886), p. 13>
[Unidentified designer], cold-painted earthenware urn made at the Newton Pottery (about 1885)
in Albert Park, Auckland. Bequeathed by Helen Boyd. One of the few remaining elements of her bequest  of  'outside vases'
Helen Boyd died on 30 September 1898 leaving a number of surprisingly generous legacies to the Auckland Institute and Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery. She also bequeathed 'a large number of outside vases for the Albert Park, and has desired her trustees to expend £1000 in the purchase in Italy, or elsewhere, of statuary, to be placed in the said park' <'Death of Mrs Helen Boyd: handsome bequests to the city', New Zealand Herald, 1 October 1898, p. 5>. This unexpected bequest – today's equivalent in terms of purchasing power would be about $1million –  prompted consternation at the Auckland City Council, however, by the end of the year, a sub-committee of the council was formed comprising Boyd's trustees and a handful of the local great and good.

The committee's initial decision was to split the bequest into four and send to Sydney, London, France and Italy for photographs of appropriate statues. In August 1899, evidently frustrated by a tardy response, the mayor decided to approach the newly formed Auckland Scenery Conservation Society seeking advice; the earlier decision was rescinded and it was resolved to seek expert advice as to the choice of subject from London.<'Auckland Scenery Conservation Society: meeting of the committee', New Zealand Herald (5 August 1899), p. 5> Letters from both the mayor and the Boyd trustees were sent to William Pember Reeves, the New Zealand Agent General in London, requesting him to 'place the matter before some sculptor of note in England (such as E Onslow Ford, RA, 62 Acacia Road, St John's Wood).'<New Zealand Herald (1 November 1899), p. 6> Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901) – his massive St George and the dragon salt cellar is included in the Tate Britain exhibition – seems to have suggested that fewer rather than more statues be acquired and recommended not only that a work by Lucchesi be acquired but also one by the better known sculptor Alfred Drury (1856-1944). Drury's efforts seem to have gained him a reputation in the colony; in late 1902 – again through Pember Reeves – he was commissioned by the New Zealand premier Richard Seddon, on behalf of the citizens of Wellington, to produce a bronze statue of Queen Victoria along with three bronze relief panels to decorate the pedestal. Drury's formalised depiction of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the subject of one of the pedestal panels, was reproduced, unacknowledged, on the New Zealand ten shilling note from 1940 to 1967.<A Lys Baldry, 'A notable sculptor: Alfred Drury ARA', Studio, 37 (1906), pp. 3-18>
Alfred Drury (1856-1944), Spring (1902), Auckland Domain, Auckland,
purchased with funds provided by the estate of Helen Boyd. Unidentified, relocated, demounted and unacknowledged.
The statues were commissioned with the New Zealand Herald  commenting enthusiastically – even if it consistently misspelt Lucchesi as 'Luchessi' – that 'These works of art will be a great adornment to Albert Park'<'Statuary for Albert Park', New Zealand Herald (29 August 1900), p. 4> Love breaking the sword of hate was installed in the park in January 1903 in its present position. Drury's Spring had suffered delays in its making 'owing to an accident to the clay model' but in March 1903 it was reported in the Auckland Star that it was to be' erected in the Albert Park at the end of this week near the entrance at Wellesley-street East<Auckland Star (25 March 1903), p. 4>. No images of the statue in its original location appear to have survived although, curiously, it is still extant, installed anonymously under a pergola at the Wintergarden in the Auckland Domain.

Both George Boyd and the trustees of Helen Boyd's estate chose to import their forms and models from Britain. Richard Hellaby had the means that enabled him to practice his art overseas, but all made significant contributions to the country's cultural inheritance. It's to our shame that these legacies have been so abused: neglected, damaged, uncared for and ignored.