Brother in court as feud over artist's legacy flares

A family bust-up over the paintings of New Zealand artist Edward Bullmore has led to his brother facing a burglary charge in the Christchurch District Court.

Maurice Bullmore, 57, tried to break into a house where he saw one of his brother's paintings, which he believed was worth $200,000.

He told the police he wanted to steal the painting because it had belonged to him in 1988.

The Tauranga Art Gallery website, which has had a retrospective exhibition of his paintings, has hailed Edward Bullmore as one of the "lost figures" of New Zealand art.

In Europe, his paintings were exhibited alongside such famous names as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.

He returned to New Zealand to teach and paint in 1969 and died in 1978.

His widow, Jacqueline Bullmore, gave 287 of his paintings, worth more than $1 million, to the Tauranga Art Gallery Trust.

Maurice Bullmore, a sickness beneficiary, yesterday admitted the burglary charge when he appeared before Judge Colin Doherty.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Mark Berryman said Bullmore visited a home in Sydenham on June 6 and saw the painting.

"At about 9.50pm that night, he returned to the property and scaled a wire fence into the yard," Mr Berryman said. "He struck a window with a piece of timber in an attempt to gain access. This caused the alarm to go off."

"He ran up the external stairs and on to the roof to make a further attempt to gain entry to the building. Police found him on the roof wearing gloves."

Bullmore admitted the facts.

"He said it was his first burglary," Mr Berryman said.

Defence lawyer Tim McKenzie told the judge Bullmore was the brother of an artist who had left a legacy of paintings.

"The distribution of that has caused a break-up in the family. There have been civil proceedings.

"He owned this painting at one point, and feels like he is still the rightful owner.

"He has gone about it the wrong way, but it was more of a message he wanted to send than a criminal act."

Bullmore wanted to delay the sentencing so he could write a letter for the judge, but Judge Doherty decided to sentence him immediately to provide closure for him and the victim.

He ordered Bullmore to do 100 hours of community work.


* Born 1933.

* Art teacher at Hillsdene and Tauranga Boys Colleges.

* Represented Canterbury, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, and was an All Black triallist.

* Left for Europe at the end of 1959.

* Pursued art career in Florence and London.

* Was a prolific and daring artist exhibiting alongside Dali, Miro and Picasso in 1966.

* Returned to Rotorua in 1969 and taught until he died in 1978.


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