Kevin and Joan McIntyre recently published Gottfried Lindauer 1839-1926 - Life of the Artist & His Works. Kevin chats to Mark Story about the acclaimed Woodville artist.

What sparked your own interest in Lindauer?
In 1975 as a committee member for the town's centennial we had 12 Lindauer originals on display at the racecourse as part of the celebration week. This was the first I was aware of Lindauer. Jumping forward to 2000, a group from Main Street organisation set about building a replica of his studio in the main street.
As a picture framer and photographer I was asked to frame pages taken from a book of Auckland Art Gallery prints. This would not work.
With contacts back to the 1975 display I set about getting the permissions to photograph for prints for the studio and over the last 18 years we (Joan and I) have spent most holidays travelling NZ photographing the Lindauer works we have 'found' that were not on public display, these mainly being NZ Pākehā early settlers and people who establish the European side of New Zealand today.

Here in NZ he's often compared with portraitist Charles Goldie - is this fair?
Two different portrait artists. In short, Lindauer was paid to paint his subjects and to that end 'you' wanted to look good and like yourself, Goldie paid his sitter and put a lot more of himself, art wise into his portraits, eg. 'the dying race', the downward facing, frowned brow, old looking faces. This is what the art world was wanting and paying for at the time.

How did he come to settle in Woodville - and are the rumours of military draft-dodging accurate?
In earlier years travel was easiest by coastal steamer; almost a daily ship plied the small ports right around New Zealand. As the country grew, roading and then rail developed at the site of 'the Junction' as it was referred to before 1875. It was the meeting place of Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay and through the Manawatū Gorge to Palmerston North. Land was sold in Napier in 1875 to become the town of Woodville. So it was now central to all these areas he visited.
If the myth of him deserting the army and throwing away his papers was true he would not have been able to return to Europe three times and stay for a couple of years each time, and using his own name without problems.
He arrived in NZ on an emigrant ship the Reichstag. The passengers were made up of sponsored people who were to work for their sponsor, if you had no sponsor then you were sent to places around NZ where there was work. Lindauer must have had papers and means as he got off the ship and started his 15 years wandering painting with no emigration sponsorship or restriction until settling in Woodville with his young family in 1890.

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His work seems to have taken some time to find favour here.
As mentioned above he was painting real people as they were and he was not seen by the art world as a good artist and was referred to only as a journeyman painter. As such the art world dismissed him and his talents. But he was no drop-out, he was a very astute businessman and knew where his income came from and followed these talents and as a result he has left us with very high quality portraits of early New Zealanders. Not only his known Māori works but with nearly two-thirds of his works being Pākehā portraits. They may look like photographs but it has to be remembered that there was no colour photography in his time so his contribution to our early NZ history is a major plus. The art world is slowly awaking to the fact that there is a historical component to such works and this is most evident in the increasing price that Lindauer's works now command.

In your view, did the Bohemian's work 'capture' New Zealand accurately?
Yes he fulfilled a place in our history very well. He may not have set out to do this but his legacy is becoming more important to us as time goes on. It is constantly said that New Zealand doesn't have any history as we are so young, but history is made up of our past and as we are mainly visual people, we like to see our past and he's given a wonderful insight into that.

* Copies of the book can be ordered from: kj.mcintyre@xtra.co.nz