Behind the Brush

When we were approached by AWA Films about a documentary series in July 2011, we recognised an opportunity that hadn't come our way before.


BehindtheBrushImage from Behind the Brush


The artist, the patron and tupuna Māori

Czech artist Gottfried Lindauer's name is synonymous with portraits of significant 19th-century Māori leaders made as early as 1874, one year after Lindauer arrived in New Zealand. Fourteen of the portraits in the series are on display in the Gallery's historic New Zealand portrait gallery to support the increased interest in Lindauer's portraiture and to celebrate the artworks as taonga from the collection.

The idea behind the series is to bring alive the stories of descendants and to uncover the lives of the artist, the patron and tupuna Māori. The Māori Television series Behind the Brush will lead the way for a proposed international touring exhibition of Lindauer's portraits to Germany in 2014 and an illustrated publication featuring Lindauer's portraits and genre paintings held in the Gallery's Partridge Collection.


Background to the series

When we were approached by AWA Films' director Julian Arahanga about a documentary series in July 2011, we recognised an opportunity that hadn't come our way before. We responded cautiously but positively to a timely examination of a well-loved artist and a much-visited collection. It was an opportunity also to acknowledge the research that Gallery staff undertook to make this website, which went live in July 2010, and to extend our descendant permissions process for the use of ancestor images in the public domain. We would go on to share this with AWA Films.

One year out from filming for the series we knew that Behind the Brush had an on-air date and we drew up a formal relationship with AWA Films to co-produce the series. The expertise and guidance of Gallery staff was critical to the making of the series. As well, the talent and reputation of AWA films made it a desirable and timely proposition.

We introduced the director and producer of the series (Maramena Roderick) to Lindauer, Partridge and Māori descendants of ancestors. I made the initial selection after discussion of our favourites, and we discussed a balance of women and men to offer up those ancestors who appear in the first series. In a way the selection was obvious, but I believe ancestors also guided the selection. Descendants generously shared their personal insights, intimate words and family accounts for the series. You could say that their whanau chronicles are among New Zealand art's most wanted stories.


Bringing heart to bear on history

Auckland Art Gallery holds the most portraits painted by Lindauer in the southern Hemisphere. We still don't know how many Māori portraits Lindauer painted and this is part of the mystery and magic of a beloved artist who was considered the people's painter.

Lindauer and Partridge's descendants describe how they were shaped by their ancestors and how their legacy is forever entwined with the descendants of Māori ancestors. The series is bilingual, and while many New Zealanders may not know the individuals in the series, they will recognise the faces they see, and bear witness to heartfelt stories that bring heart to our shared histories.


Ngahiraka Mason, Indigenous Curator, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Tāia tēnei whārangi | Print this page
  • Whakaahua Mūori | Mūori Portraits

    View the portraits of Māori painted by Gottfried Lindauer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Search for specific portraits by iwi or keyword and view the painting in detail through the zoom viewer.

  • Tangata pūkenga | The Artist

    Learn about Gottfried Lindauer, one of the best-known painters of Māori portraits. Read about his painting techniques, why the works were painted, and the role of his patron Henry Partridge.

  • Documentary series | Behind the Brush

    The Māori Television series Behind the Brush brings alive the stories of descendants and to uncover the lives of the artist, the patron and tupuna Māori.

  • Pukapuka manuhiri | Visitors Book

    Turn the pages, view the hundreds of comments and signatures, read the transcription and translation, and search by name and place. A digitisation of an historical legacy.