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Honorary doctorate for influential art historian


A man who revolutionised the way New Zealanders look at their art is to receive an honorary doctorate from Victoria University.
Artist and art historian Gordon H. Brown will receive an honorary Doctor of Literature that will be conferred at the University’s graduation ceremonies in December this year.
Born in Wellington in 1931, Mr Brown is one of the key figures of 20th Century New Zealand art history and criticism, receiving both national and international distinction. He was among the first to assess New Zealand painting and other visual media in line with international practice.
While regarded as an authority on New Zealand’s fine and applied art, he is also well acquainted with New Zealand literature and is now gaining recognition for his own contribution to the development of modernism in New Zealand.
A graduate of the Canterbury College of Art in Christchurch, he trained as a librarian at the National Library School and joined the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1960. In 1964, he became librarian at Elam School of Art before joining the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1965.
He was curator of the picture collection at the Hocken Library in Dunedin from 1971 to 1974 during which time he became close friends with Colin McCahon, James K. Baxter, J.C. Sturm and Don Driver.
As a result of his own collecting, he became a steady donor of work by McCahon and other emerging New Zealand artists to art museums throughout New Zealand. He contributed 50 items to the first 50 issues of the quarterly journal Art in New Zealand.
In 1969, he co-authored the first comprehensive history of New Zealand painting with Hamish Keith. The book has been reprinted several times and was revised and enlarged in 1982. In 1972, the first of a trilogy of exhibitions surveying the history of New Zealand painting from 1900 to 1960 appeared and the three publications that accompanied them represent the most comprehensive writing on this topic.
Mr Brown became director of the Waikato Art Gallery in 1970 and later the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui in 1974. Since 1977, he has worked free-lance as a writer and researcher and in 1989 received an OBE for his contribution to New Zealand art history and scholarship.
Now aged 71, Mr Brown, who lives on Auckland’s Waiheke Island, continues to work tirelessly to ensure the record of Colin McCahon’s work is complete and accurate, to give occasional lectures, and to revise and enlarge the trilogy he worked on during the 1970s to bring it up to 1985.
Victoria University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said Mr Brown was keen to help the students of the future. “Victoria University is delighted to acknowledge Gordon Brown’s contribution to the arts in New Zealand, both as an historian and critic and as an artist.”


Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Public Affairs
For further information please contact Antony Paltridge or phone +64-4-463-5873

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