The engaging line: E. Mervyn Taylor's prints on Maori subjects
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
E. Mervyn Taylor (1906-1964) was a pakeha artist whose prints drew influence from Maori culture and motif. He was one of a small number of artists who developed interest in Maori culture during the 1940s and 1950s. He expanded interest into detailed study of Maori culture, and interaction with Maori, and produced a significant body of prints on this subject during his career. Taylor's prints were acclaimed during his lifetime, but in the decades after his death, his reputation faded to the extent that he became relatively obscure. This persisted until the late 1980s, when art historical reassessment of his work began. This thesis forms a part of this continued re-evaluation. It focuses on Taylor's prints on Maori subjects, an area not sufficiently scrutinised in an academic context. It aims to reach deeper understanding of his prints through historical analysis of the factors that influenced him to choose Maori, and their culture as subjects for his artwork. The thesis also examines why Taylor's reputation was so emphatically based on his New Zealand heritage, as well as the quality of his craftsmanship, his beliefs about which formed the foundation of his philosophy. Nationalist and regionalist notions also figured in his aesthetic ideals. His prints are also placed in relation to the modern debate over cultural appropriation in art. Greater recognition and understanding of Taylor's oeuvre may be achieved by establishing why he chose Maori subjects, and what specific features they contributed to the character of his work.