Reproductions unearthed after plea for artworks

By Lindy Laird

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A portrait of chief Nireaha Tamaki by Gottfried Lindauer.
A portrait of chief Nireaha Tamaki by Gottfried Lindauer.

A newspaper story about a nationwide search for lost paintings by Gottfried Lindauer sent one Whangarei woman scurrying behind the couch in search of a fortune.

Out came five pictures by the 19th-century Czechoslovakian-born artist, who moved to Woodville and continued to paint there until his death in 1926.

The woman's prints are about 30cm sq and all carry the artist's name, the subject's name and the name of the framers, B. and E. Tingey, and Co Ltd, Wanganui, stamped on the back.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, was reading the article on the same page about Auckland Art Gallery's search for Lindauer works.

"I thought, 'Hey, I was dusting some of those behind the couch just the other day'," she said.

Auckland Art Gallery's curator of Maori art, Nigel Borell, who put the call out for lost Lindauers a bit more than a week ago, has already had 12 original Lindauer oil paintings come out of the woodwork since.

"Unfortunately," Mr Borell said of the Whangarei woman's find, "they are almost certainly reproductions. We've had many calls about other reproductions from up and down the country ... but they are still worth having, and the fact there are so many shows how popular Lindauer's work was."

The Whangarei woman found the five pictures at a local garage sale years ago. The proud folk in the frames looked like they needed a home, she said.

"But I never hung them on my wall because I don't whakapapa back to any of those old people," she said.

These Lindauer subjects in her prints are Anehana, Te Hau Takiri Wharapapa, Kuinioroa, Te Hira te Kawau and Kewene te Haho.

Lindauer's Anehana is in the Auckland Art Gallery collection.
Lindauer's Anehana is in the Auckland Art Gallery collection.

The biggest clue regarding whether the owners have the real deal is the size - prints are much smaller than Lindauer's originals. The next big giveaway is the surface, which should have an oil paint texture.

Most of the 12 works the art gallery has been alerted to are in private art collections or have been handed down to family members. They were under the radar, rather than lost, but art historians estimate there are more than 100 original paintings by the prolific portraitist yet to be accounted for.

A spokesperson for the Auckland Art Gallery said the museum had so far received three responses "with connection to Hawke's Bay and to Woodville".

- Anyone in Hawke's Bay who thinks they may have a Lindauer painting or have information on the whereabouts of one, please emailhello@aucklandartgallery.com.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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