Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The War Dog of New Zealand

"1914. The War-Dog of New Zealand" by artist J.D. Perrett.

This powerful patriotic painting is all-absorbing with its symbolic strong stance of a British bulldog combined with Maori warrior adornments; the black tail feathers with white tips from the extinct Huia bird, tā moko facial marking and the ornamental pendant, hei-tiki made of pounamu (greenstone) all of which personify the wearer with status and high rank. Truly a force to be feared by any enemy!

War was declared in August 1914, and at that time, Auckland-based artist John Douglas Perrett was likely inspired to paint this wonderful piece as New Zealanders rallied to join the British Empire and fight for King and Country. The New Zealand Herald printing works made a copy and the painting thus reproduced in to postcard format seen above.

John Perrett, a Glaswegian born in about 1859, was a student at the Glasgow School of Art. When he was about 27 years old he emigrated to New Zealand and this young Scot unsurprisingly settled in Dunedin. It was not long before he had established himself as an artist of some repute in this city. His specialty was scenic landscapes and he exhibited such works as "A Sunny Glade", "A Mountain Stream", "Harrison's Cove, Milford Sound" and "The Cleddan River" in the early 1890's. 

John and his young family moved to Devonport Auckland sometime in 1895 and he took up a studio in Victoria Arcade in the heart of Auckland city. He and his wife Helen had four sons William Hay, John Douglas, Harold Seaton, Hugh Gordon, and one daughter Barbara Stewart. Three sons saw active service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War. John (Jack) served in the Auckland Infantry and sailed with the Main Body to Egypt in October 1914. He survived the war and died in Auckland in 1961, age 69 years. Harold was a Gunner in the New Zealand Field Artillery and his brother Hugh was in the 36th Reinforcements. Both returned home after the war.

John Douglas Perrett's son Jack, Auckland Weekly News, 13 January 1916

Perhaps an undervalued and little known artist to many New Zealanders today, Perrett was a prolific and respected artist here in New Zealand from the 1890's through to the 1930's. He is recognised for being one of the original members of the Auckland Academy of Art, gained a silver medalion for a fine marine study, and was renowned for an excellent drawing of the Pink and White Terraces, a piece of work he had just completed when the Tarawera eruption occurred in 1886. Some of his other works include; "Haunt of the Sea Birds", "Hutt River", "Island Bay - Wellington", "Evening - Milford Sound", "Wanganui River", "Branch of the Wanganui River", "The Reef Suva - Fiji", "Morning - Lake Pukaki", "Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki", "Evening, Mount Cook", "Auckland Harbour", "A Peaceful Vale", "The End of the Day", "Clearing After Rain, Milford Sound", "Cathedral Peaks, Lake Manapouri", "Lake Manapouri", "Dunedin Harbour",  "Government House and grounds", "Mount Ruapehu", "Summer Weather, Auckland Harbour", "Pelorus Sound", "Moonlight, Akaroa Harbour", "Lake Kanieri", "Nature's Mirror", "A Rockbound Coast", "Lake Waikaremoana", "Waikareiti" and many others.

John Douglas Perrett continued to paint and exhibit his work through until his death on 18 January 1937, age 78 years. His wife Helen Marion Perret died just two and a half months later, age 77 years.

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