Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Renowned Wellington artist, The Toastman, dies

New Zealand artist Maurice Bennett, known as The Toastman for his unique portraits of celebrities crafted from pieces of toast, has died this morning after a long battle with leukaemia.

Mr Bennett, 59, passed away this morning at his Wellington home, family say.

He is survived by wife Carolyn, and daughters Julie and Sonya and three grandchildren.

Maurice Bennett in front of his toast mural of Jonah Lomu at his New World supermarket in Island Bay, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maurice Bennett in front of his toast mural of Jonah Lomu at his New World supermarket in Island Bay, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mr Bennett's quirky style of cooking thousands of pieces of toast to various shades and piecing them to make large pixelated images of famous people drew him worldwide acclaim.

He created toast artworks of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Elvis Presley, Prime Minister John Key, and US President Barack Obama - a 2.4m x 2.4m portrait which used 4234 slices of toast.

All Blacks greats Richie McCaw, Sir Colin Meads, and Jonah Lomu also got the toasted bread treatment, with the Lomu image initially drawing the ire of his then manager, Phil Kingsley Jones.

Maurice Bennett with a mock-up of his latest work made from toast slices in Wellington in 2001. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maurice Bennett with a mock-up of his latest work made from toast slices in Wellington in 2001. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mr Bennett also created an image of US rap artist Eminem from 5040 individual candy M&Ms, which appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest picture made from candy.

Today, his cousin Darryean Glendinning, of Takanini, Auckland, paid tribute to a "fun-loving" and "amazingly talented guy".

A farewell service will be held at Saint Mark's Church in Carterton where Mr Bennett designed a stained glass window that featured on New Zealand Post's 80 cent stamp last Christmas.

- NZ Herald

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