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Two New Paintings For The NZ Portrait Gallery

From The Nz Portrait Gallery

A portrait of New Zealand poet James K. Baxter painted in a jail cell in North Queensland, is one of two portraits presented to the New Zealand Portrait Gallery this week ( Monday November 19).

The portrait was painted 22 years ago while self-taught Australian artist Carl Edward Otto was in prison serving a life sentence for murder. Otto's inspiration for the portrait was through a chance finding of Baxter's poetry "Jerusalem Sonnets" which fellow-inmate, New Zealander Barry Woolston, was reading at the time. Woolston bought the completed portrait from Otto while they were both still incarcerated.

"Otto related to Baxter's view of the world", said Woolston when handing over the work to NZ Portrait Gallery director Avenal McKinnon. "He told me that while the reasons for their isolation from the everyday world were quite different, he could identify with Baxter's struggle." The painting includes a number of the iconic motifs - death, the holocaust, and Christianity, with which Baxter is often associated.

Woolston said he had enjoyed the portrait for 22 years but felt it was now time to share it more widely. He has lost contact with Carl Otto, who is thought to be living in North Queensland.

Avenal McKinnon said the Gallery was delighted to receive the portrait. "The acquisition of works of or by significant New Zealanders is tremendously important to the on-going establishment of the Gallery's permanent collection" she said. "To have a portrait of one of our best-known and well-loved poets, is very exciting''.

The second acquisition for the Gallery is a portrait of the New Zealand rhythm and movement pioneer, the Austrian born Gisa Taglicht. David Zwartz, who found the portrait in a corner of his Kelburn house, said Taglicht was a significant educator who, with Philip Smithells, introduced to New Zealand a number of new physical education techniques. "This generous donation is an example of what could be found when people think about looking in unexpected places" said Avenal McKinnon. "The attics and basements of New Zealand houses could be a treasure-trove for future Portrait Gallery collections."

The two new paintings and the Gallery's current collection, can be viewed by appointment at the offices of the NZ Portrait Gallery in Turnbull House Wellington until such time as the Gallery is able to acquire its own permanent space.


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