Doubts cast on Goldie painting claim

By Mike Barrington

An art expert doubts Charles Goldie painted the picture which a Northland man believes was done by the famous artist.

The picture of his grandmother and her 2-year-old daughter is a family heirloom handed down to the man, who says Goldie was a neighbour of the grandmother when he painted it in 1891, working from a photograph of the pair.

But when an image of the picture was sent to Victoria University of Wellington senior lecturer in art history Roger Blackley, he said Goldie's recorded works of this period were quite different in nature.

"Judging by the image, I would say that, as opposed to a 'painting from a photograph', this is likely to be a painted photographic enlargement, of a type that large photographic establishments of this period produced for clients who wanted an impressive framed portrait," he said. "Close examination will probably reveal its photographic base, since it looks to be fairly thinly painted."

When the Advocate told Associate Professor Blackley, who has curated Goldie exhibitions and written a book about the artist, that the painting was on canvas rather than photographic paper, he said big photographic studios in the 1890s employed artists to copy photographs, giving people grand portraits.

"The way the hair has been painted in this picture, it looks like colouring in," he said.

However, the Auckland Art Gallery was more cautious, with communications officer Jade Lucas saying their art expert could not pass judgment on the painting until she had seen it.

The 88-year-old owner of the picture was indignant when told of Mr Blackley's analysis.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's by Goldie," he said firmly.

And he jumped at an Advocate offer to take him and the painting to the Auckland Art Gallery, where the head of their curatorial services team will put it under a microscope.

Meanwhile, an Onerahi reader called the paper yesterday to say he had a painting at his home which could rival the Goldie portrait of Rutene Te Uamairangi which Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sold in 2010 for $573,000, the most paid for a painting at auction in New Zealand.

He did own a Goldie but it is a print of the portrait of Te Aho-te-Rangi Wharepu of Ngati Mahuta known as A Good Joke.

- Northern Advocate

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