James McLauchlan Nairn : the New Zealand years
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The subject of this thesis is the New Zealand years of Scottish-born artist James McLauchlan Nairn (1859-1904) who arrived in New Zealand in January 1890. At the time of his death in February 1904, Nairn was described by his contemporaries as the leading painter in the colony. Although subsequently his pre-eminence has been questioned, Nairn has continued to be recognized as a significant figure within the development of New Zealand painting. However, to date no comprehensive study of the fourteen-year period he was resident in New Zealand has been undertaken. This thesis examines the life and work of the artist during this period. It attempts to locate Nairn within his Scottish past and identify developments in his work Chapter One retraces the period immediately following Nairn's arrival in New Zealand in 1890. It sets out to clarify the circumstances in which the artist came to New Zealand, considering why he decided to stay and how he established himself within a relatively short period of time as a professional artist of some stature within the community. Chapters Two - Five examine the development of the artist during these years. Here the material is treated thematically. Nairn is revealed as a painter who worked in a variety of genres and media, although landscape always remained his main preoccupation. It is shown how Nairn's subsequent development as an artist was very reliant on his Scottish origins, in particular his association with the Glasgow Boys during the 1880s. Yet it is also demonstrated that his work does show developments and includes New Zealand content. A catalogue of the artist's work for the years 1890-1904 and a record of his exhibited works, together with published writings and letters, constitute important resource material and documentation.