Pilsen, New Zealand, Berlin: The Travels of Gottfried Lindauer

He was born in Pilsen (today Plzen), Bohemia, as the son of Hynek-Ignatz Lindauer, a gardener, and his wife Maria Schmid. For three years from the age of thirteen Lindauer was his father's apprentice, spending much time sketching flowers and plants. In 1855 he decamped, and supposedly walked, to Vienna to study at the Academy of Fine Arts under Leopold Kupelwieser and Joseph von Führich, the one-time Nazarene artist.

The Fifth Auckland Triennial in 2013 was titled If you were to live here. An Artforum reviewer wrote: "The Auckland Art Gallery ... remained a major hub, where Hou [Hanru, the curator] cleverly integrated the triennial's contemporary works into the collection ... both foreground[ing] the highpoints of the institution's holding - the nineteenth century Photorealist [sic] portraits of Maori leaders by the Austro-Hungarian painter Gottfried Lindauer are worth a trip to New Zealand alone [my italics] - and produc[ing] provocative juxtapositions of the contemporary and the historical."1 Thus the work of Lindauer (1839-1926), an academy-trained Czech artist, identified as 'Austrian' and 'German' in New Zealand, vied with the contemporary. However unlikely that sounds, 49 of his paintings are now, temporarily, in a current art capital, Berlin, where Lindauer was previously "completely unkriown".2 Curiously though, over 70 of Lindauer's Māori subject paintings could have come here before World War I. Reportedly, an otherwise unidentified "Berlin Museum" wanted, unsuccessfully, to buy the Partridge Collection (about which more later).3 History is not made of 'what ifs ...'; so who is this Gottfried, sometimes called by the Czech name Bohumir, Lindauer?

Fig. 1 Gottfried Lindauer, Self-portrait, 1860s, oil on canvas, West-Bohemian Museum in Pilsen


He was born in Pilsen (today Plzen), Bohemia, as the son of Hynek-Ignatz Lindauer, a gardener, and his wife Maria Schmid. For three years from the age of thirteen Lindauer was his father's apprentice, spending much time sketching flowers and plants. In 1855 he decamped, and supposedly walked, to Vienna to study at the Academy of Fine Arts under Leopold Kupelwieser and Joseph von Führich, the one-time Nazarene artist. Lindauer studied there until 1861, when he joined the studio of Carl Hemerlein, a well-known portraitist. In 1863 and 1864 he received commissions for murals in two Moravian churches.4 It is claimed that he also worked as an art tutor in Poland and painted Biblical pictures for churches in Russia.5 Though he had a Catholic upbringing, a paternal uncle who was the Bishop of České Budějovice and another relative, Josef Cardinal Beran, who became Archbishop of Prague and Czech primate, the mature Lindauer was agnostic or atheist. Back in Pilsen, he established his own studio (1864-1873), specialising in portraits of local gentry. Various reasons have been cited for his emigration to New Zealand (though legend has it that he thought he was going to America): for instance, to avoid further compulsory military service, the decline in portrait commissions because of the advances in photographic portraiture, a general economic crisis, his encounter with Māori artefacts at Vienna's World Fair in 1873, and his seduction by accounts of New Zealand's natural beauty. The latter still lures Central Europeans today.

Sculpture of
Gottfried Lindauer by Allen HutchinsonFig. 2 Allen Hutchinson, Gottfried Lindauer, 1902, bronze, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Miss Isa Outhwaite


Moving to Hamburg first, Lindauer sailed on the Reichstag, arriving in Wellington on the other side of the world in August 1874. In Nelson and Wellington, Lindauer began his long, antipodean painting career. He produced hundreds of portraits of indigenous Māori and settler colonials, notably the civically prominent, such as Anglican Bishop Selwyn and William Colenso, a missionary, botanist, writer and politician. He also painted genre scenes, featuring both Europeans and Māori. Lindauer's paintings of Māori subjects made his public name, especially after his shift north to Auckland in late 1875 or early 1876. In a city, and country, with a very small population, rudimentary institutions of fine arts, and a virtually non-existent art market, Lindauer advertised for portrait commissions in local newspapers, showed his work in shop windows, and sold his pictures via lotteries. Professional artists were almost an unknown species in New Zealand.

In Auckland, a port city on the Waitemata Harbour, Lindauer met British-born, widely travelled Henry Partridge (1848-1931), whose tobacco business was reputedly the largest in New Zealand.6 Partridge became his main patron, commissioning upward of eighty paintings over the next thirty or so years. About 1879 Lindauer married Emelia Wipper (1853-1880) from Gdansk (then Danzig in East Prussia). They met in Melbourne and settled in Christchurch, but Emelia died soon after. He shifted to Napier in 1881, where he was naturalised as a 'New Zealander'. Nevertheless in the early 1880s Lindauer sold all his possessions, intending to return to Europe. He was persuaded to stay longer in New Zealand by his close associate Samuel Carnell (1832-1920), the leading Napier photographer well known for his portraits of Māori .7 Carnell was assisted by New Zealand-born Walter Buller (1838-1906), lawyer, art connoisseur and ornithologist, now primarily identified by his much reprinted A History or the Birds or New Zealand (1872/73).8 Both men were important for the directions Lindauer's painting took. They worked for the itinerant Native Land Court, and this connection provided many opportunities for further portraits of Māori. In the 1880s in particular Lindauer travelled extensively around the North Island offering portraiture services. His output was prolific. For instance, according to his notebook, he painted or sold 46 portraits in Wellington in 1877, 22 in Cambridge and fifteen in Palmerston North, small rural towns, in 1883.9 He made a good income. The Wellington portraits fetched £1,034, and his 1885 sales of 115 portraits £2,729; his larger portraits going for at least £50 each.10

Fig. 3 H. E. Partridge & Co., Queen Street, Auckland, 1912, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-4414


After Partridge, Buller was Lindauer's most important patron for Māori subject pictures. The bird-watching lawyer was also a commissioner of the New Zealand displays at the grand Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886. He included twelve Lindauer paintings that he commissioned in the Māori Court at South Kensington, otherwise a display of indigenous arts and artefacts. This was one of the big successes of the Exhibition, which overall was designed to showcase the 'fruits' and the power of the British Empire. According to a "London correspondent", "Lindauer's 'pictures of Maori life' were a never failing source of interest to the British public".11 Another painting of a young Māori woman by Lindauer featured in the general New Zealand Court at the Albert Gallery: "The beautifully expressive features are remarkably well executed in every detail[...]. This style of art[...] would do much to rescue interesting Maori types from oblivion", asserted one reviewer.12

Lindauer and his second wife Rebecca visited Britain for the occasion, returning to New Zealand at the end of 1886, finally settling in late 1889 in Woodville, a speck of a town in the provincial Hawke's Bay, his home for the rest of his life. He had met Rebecca Petty (1849-1944), an English immigrant, in 1881, and their marriage in September 1885 kept him domiciled in New Zealand. That she was a cordon bleu cook probably helped, while the births of their two sons, Hector in 1887 and Victor in 1888, finalised his choice of country. That Hector's other first names were Carnell and Partridge presumably testifies to how important those eponymous friends were for Gottfried Lindauer. Hector (d. 1928), a talented musician, was trained at the Leipzig Conservatory before World War I, while Victor (d.1964), initially a teacher, became an internationally renowned phycologist, a scientist specialising in seaweeds.13 Indeed Victor was probably much better known in the world of science than his father was in the world of art.

Lindauer did not abandon Europe. He and his family lived in Europe, mainly Germany, in 1900-1902 and 1911-1914, with visits to Bohemia. Several of his Māori portraits were placed in public and private collections there. Lindauer was closely associated with a number of fellow Czechs, both in New Zealand and Bohemia - notably a leading naturalist and collector, Václav Frič, and ethnographer Vojtěch Náprstek together with his wife Josefa, founders of the Náprstek Museum in Prague. This Museum holds two of Lindauer's Māori portraits and two of his rare drawings of moko (tattoo) designs, as well as Māori artefacts and photographs of Māori subjects that he gifted to the Náprsteks. A Czech writer and global traveller, Josef Kořenský, encountered Lindauer in New Zealand in 1900, having written an article on him for the Czech periodical Vesmir.14 Kořenský described the collaboration of the Czech artist and Māori as "incredible" in his 1904 book on his travels in Australia and New Zealand.15 He recognised how much Lindauer's portraits were valued by Māori - at a time when this was generally ignored by Europeans in New Zealand.16

Lindauer's long relationship with Partridge was the most crucial for his public reputation. Besides his portraits of eminent Māori, both living and deceased, in either traditional Māori or European costume, Lindauer made large-scale depictions of traditional Māori practices, as well as pictures of everyday life and of the legendary Arawa heroine, Hinemoa, for Partridge.17 They aimed to commemorate Māori at a time when it was widely, though mistakenly, believed that Māori would die out, whether literally or as a distinct cultural collectivity. Partridge loaned 24 of the portraits to the 1898 Auckland Exhibition art gallery in the still standing Choral Hall.18 Then from 1901 to 1912 his Lindauer collection - initially forty portraits and one depiction of a Māori custom - was exhibited in a gallery above his tobacconist's shop in Auckland's main street, Queen Street.

Another of Lindauer's close associates, James Cowan (1870-1943), a popular writer on New Zealand history, compiled a Descriptive Catalogue of Partridge's collection in 1901.19 This was revised, updated and republished with reproductions in 1930.20 Cowan, whose second wife was Māori, was the first Pākehā (European settler) writer for whom Māori achievements and activities were as essential for colonial history writing as those of European settlers.21 That orientation is particularly noteworthy, in that the Partridge Collection was described as "practically a pictorial history of the colony since its earliest days".22 Nine of the Māori subject pictures were borrowed by the New Zealand Government to help represent the country at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. In 1913 the Collection, by then 62 portraits and eight big pictures of Māori practices and customs, attained even greater public visibility when loaned to the Auckland Art Gallery. And in 1915 Partridge permanently gifted all the paintings to the Gallery, provided a large sum of money was raised to assist Belgian war refugees. The Collection quickly became a centrepiece of the Gallery, popular and celebrated, even if for different reasons, by local Europeans, visiting tourists and Māori alike.

Clearly Lindauer respected and empathised With Māori people and culture. For many Māori, especially the families and descendants of his subjects, his paintings were, and are, experienced as materialisations of the presence, spirit and mana (respect, prestige, authority) of the depicted people, as links between the past and present, and as taonga (treasures) that require protection. Māori visitors' responses to Lindauer's paintings, inscribed in the Auckland Art Gallery Visitors' book, show the high regard in which the artist and his paintings are held.23

Māori people had also commissioned portraits from Lindauer from the mid 1870s on. An exhibition of nine of his portraits in Wellington in 1877 attracted business from Māori chiefs. Attendance at the Native Land Court in the 1880s could be "perceptibly thinner", if Lindauer's travelling studio, "which has been literally thronged with Māori visitors", was in town.24 Many of these portrait subjects were otherwise little-known outside their extended families or tribes; 'ordinary' people, usually portrayed in European clothes, as they wore in daily life.

Yet while Lindauer's paintings were celebrated in New Zealand during and after World War I, it was not always pleasant for the artist and his family then. During the War people of German and Austrian descent in New Zealand frequently faced suspicion, hostility and social ostracism. For instance, a prominent academic and official Government translator, Professor George von Zedlitz (1871-1949), a New Zealand citizen, whose mother was English and father German, lost his university job after the Alien Enemy Teachers Act was passed in 1915.25 People changed their names from German to English ones: Schmidt to Smith, and Schneider to Taylor, for example. Lindauer was affected too. He was frequently misidentified as German, which carried derogatory associations. Such experiences were very hurtful for him, his wife and sons. Nevertheless, while his last years were shadowed at times by his co-nationals' xenophobia, only his deteriorating eye­sight eventually ended his painting career about 1919.

There is little reliable documentation about Lindauer's personality. His diverse travels, responses to adversity and career generally suggest that he was resilient, independent­ minded, open to difference and new experiences. Lindauer appears to have chosen to remain on the margins of mainstream settler colonial society; rarely exhibiting in urban art society shows, spending most of his life in small provincial towns, his personal public profile low once he was settled in Woodville. Yet his artistic legacy is enormous.

Along with the New Zealand-born and Paris­trained Charles F. Goldie (1870-1947), Lindauer was, and still is, the best-known, most admired and popular painter of Māori subjects. His paintings are complex interweavings of features from diverse cultures and societies - Māori, Czech, German, Austrian, English, French, and emerging Pākehā. In this respect an artist, whose work was sometimes criticised as conservative, old-fashioned, past its use-by date, was ahead of his time. Instead, picture Lindauer as a cosmopolitan individual, an internationalist, at a time when exclusive nationalisms and notions of 'pure' ethnic and cultural identity were increasingly prevalent and dominant in Europe and elsewhere. The tragic consequences, like the blood-letting disasters of World War I, with worse to come, do not need to be spelt out. In such a climate Lindauer now seems like a man for a better future.

Leonard Bell

First published in Gottfried Lindauer: die Māori-portraits for the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in collaboration with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; edited by Udo Kittelmann und Britta Schmitz. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2014. Reprinted online with the kind permission of the author and publishers.

  1. Jens Hoffmann, "5th Auckland Triennial", in: Art Forum, December 2013, p. 273.
  2. Britta Schmitz, Curator, National Galleries of Berlin, Email to Leonard Bell, The University of Auckland, 14 November 2013.
  3. "Pioneer's Death. Mr. Henry Partridge. An Adventurous Career. Founder of Lindauer Gallery", in: Auckland Star, 12 September 1931, p. 12.
  4. See F. Subert, "Essay to the Painting of Bohumir Lindauer Discovered at Valasske Klobouky and Vizovice in Moravia and Czechoslovakia", 1961, Typescript, in: Auckland Art Gallery Research Library.
  5. "Death of Lindauer. Painter of Noted Maoris", in: Auckland Star, 15 June 1926, p. 8. For Lindauer's biography generally, see J. C. Graham, Maori Paintings: Pictures from the Partridge Collection of Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer, Wellington: Reed, 1966; Leonard Bell, "Lindauer (1839-1926)", Chapter 9 in: The Maori in European Art: A Survey of the Representation of the Maori by European Artists from the Time of Captain Cook to the Present Day, Wellington, A. H. & A. W. Reed Ltd., 1980, pp. 62-69; Briar Gordon and Peter Stupples, Gottfried Lindauer: His Life and Maori Art, Auckland: Collins, 1985; and Leonard Bell, "Gottfried Lindauer", in: Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 1993, p. 272. Online: , accessed 27 May 2014.
  6. Whakamahiro Lindauer Online, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Biography of Henry Edward Partridge 1848-1931. Online: , accessed 6 May 2014.
  7. For Carnell see John Sullivan, "The Photography of Samuel Carnell", in: Turnbull Library Record, vol. 23, May 1990, pp. 69-76.
  8. For Buller see Ross Galbreath, Walter Buller: The Reluctant Conservationist, Wellington: GP Books, ca.1989.
  9. Lindauer's Notebook (1877-1900), in: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, "Lindauer Family: Papers Relating to Gottfried Lindauer", MSX- 3092.
  10. Ibid.
  11. "Herr Lindauer's Maori Pictures", in: New Zealand Herald, 11 January 1887, p. 5.
  12. "Colonial and Indian Exhibition", in: New Zealand Herald, 19 August 1886, p. 5.
  13. See Vivienne Cassie Cooper, "Victor Wilhelm Lindauer (1888-1964): His Life and Works", in: Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, No. I, 1995, pp.1-14.
  14. Vesmir 36:3, 15 November 1896.
  15. Josef Korensky, K protinozcum: cesta do Australie, Tasmanie, na Novy Zeland, Prague, 1904, pp. 116-117.
  16. See Leonard Bell, "Crossing Boundaries: Gottfried Lindauer, a Czech Artist in New Zealand and his Paintings of Maori", in: Umeni/Art (Journal of the Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic), 4, XLVIII/2000, pp. 218-230.
  17. See Leonard Bell, "Lindauer's Paintings of Maori Custom and Legend", in: Colonial Constructs: European Images of Maori 1840-1914, Auckland & Melbourne: Auckland University Press & Melbourne University Press, 1992, pp. 195-221.
  18. Auckland Star, 21 November 1898, p. 5.
  19. James Cowan, Maori Biographies: Sketches of Old New Zealand: Descriptive Catalogue of Maori Portraits Painted by Herr G. Lindauer, Auckland: Brett Publishing Co., 1901.
  20. James Cowan, Pictures of Old New Zealand: The Partridge Collection of Maori Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer, Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1930.
  21. Chris Hilliard, The Bookman's Dominion: Cultural Life in New Zealand 1920- 1950, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2006. For Cowan see David Colquhoun, "Cowan, James", in: Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 7 June 2013. Online: , accessed 5 May 2014.
  22. Auckland Star, 22 March 1915, p. 4.
  23. See Whakamiharo Lindauer Online, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Pukapuka Manuhiri Visitors' Book. It spans the years 1901-1918. Online: , accessed 7 May 2014.
  24. "The Native Gathering at Cambridge. Mr Lindauer's Portraits", in: New Zealand Herald, 29 January 1883, p. 6.
  25. See Jean King, "Anti-German Hysteria During World War I", and Nelson Wattie, "George von Zedlitz", in: James N. Bade (ed), Out of the Shadow of War: The German Connection with New Zealand in the Twentieth Century, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp.19-24 and pp.137-141 respectively. See also Jean King, "Deutschfeindliche Hysterie im Ersten Weltkrieg" and Nelson Wattie, "George von Zedlitz", in: James N. Bade (ed.), Im Schatten zweier Kriege: Deutsche und Osterreicher in Neuseeland im 20. Jahrhundert, Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2005, pp. 34-41 and pp. 192-200.
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