‘Say the name, Lindauer, and every Māori chief will nod his head…When you attend a funeral and visit the house of a chief, what do you see above the displayed corpse? You will see a painting, which is the true likeness of the chief. And who was the creator of this work? If you look at the corner of the painting, you will recognize the artist’s signature: Bohuslav Lindauer”. Josef Kořenský, globetrotting writer, 1905.
Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926), was amongst the most prolific and best-known painter of Māoris in the late 19th & early 20th centuries. He was born far, far away form New Zealand in Pilsen, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although his surname sounds German, he was ethnically Czech and was initially named Bohumir.
Trained at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Art, he migrated to New Zealand in 1874 and, in the mid 1870s a meeting with a businessman named Henry Partridge sealed the young Czech painter’s destiny. Over the next 30+ years, Partridge would commission Lindauer to paint a procession of endless eminent Māori, as well as large-scale re-enactments of ethnic Māori life. Partridge’s purpose was to create a visual history of Māori, to preserve it at a time when it was thought that Māori were dying out, both literally and as a cultural group.
Lindauer himself remains elusive. He was an atheist or agnostic at a time and in a society when that was rare. His actions and career do more than hint at an independently minded personality. A free spirit and thinker living on the fringes of mainstream settler colonial society. An outsider. He rarely exhibited at art society shows in New Zealand, and lived out most of his small toen life being was frequently misidentified as German. During World War One his percieved ‘”German-ness” meant he was subject to overt social ostracism and hostility.
Lindauer maintained close connections with a number of fellow Czechs, both in New Zealand and Bohemia – notably the leading naturalist and collector, Vaclav Fric, and the ethnographer, Vojtech Naprstek, and his wife, Josepha, founders of the Naprstek Museum in Prague. This Museum holds two of Lindauer’s Māori portraits and two of his rare drawings of moko designs, as well as Māori artifacts and photographs of Māori subjects that the artist gifted to the Vojtechs.
A prominent globetrotting Czech writer, Josef Kořenský (1847-1938) met up with Lindauer in New Zealand in 1900. In a subsequent 1905 travel book Kořenský described the unlikely cultural meshing of the Czech artist with Māori as being “incredible” and noted too how Lindauer’s portraits were used and valued by Māori.
‘Say the name, Lindauer,” wrote Kořenský, “and every Māori chief will nod his head…When you attend a funeral and visit the house of a chief, what do you see above the displayed corpse? You will see a painting, which is the true likeness of the chief. And who was the creator of this work? If you look at the corner of the …painting, you will recognize the artist’s signature: Bohuslav Lindauer”.
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.