Volume 1. Number 9.

The appearances and disappearances

of Joseph Gaut

The first appearance of Joseph Gaut in New Zealand, sometime in the early 1880s, went largely unnoticed in the press. So, instead he made his own announcement; from August 1883 art lessons, with Joseph Gaut (South Kensington graduate in both art and science) could be enrolled through the offices of Wayte’s booksellers, Auckland at £3 3s per subject. For £10 10s the complete course consisting freehand drawing, model drawing, practical geometry, linear perspective and watercolour painting could also be obtained. [1]

Joseph Gaut was born in the Sydney in 1860. After study in London he headed for New Zealand in search of fame. Although fame would always elude Joseph Gaut he had by April 1884, at least, captured the attention of one Auckland art critic who singled him out as ‘new to us.’ Among Gaut’s paintings at New Zealand Art Students Association exhibition of that year, was an equestrian portrait Musket that had captured the critic’s eye and although it was deemed ‘a good picture,’ it was also observed that the ‘head, to the uninitiated looks too large to be proportional.’ [2]

Throughout the decade Gaut spent in New Zealand he would never receive an easy ride from New Zealand art critics and although failings of drawing were occasionally mentioned – it was Gaut’s use of colour that would most often receive unflattering or at least quizzical mention. Thus at the same exhibition, Sunset, Lake Rotoiti, was described as ‘a painting of painted in deep, decided tones’ of which the ‘the sky and the distance are well managed,’ but the foreground was judged as ‘too dark.’ Similar criticisms were leveled at Moonlight, Head of Lake Wakatipu of which the critic comments were complimentary but barbed, describing it first as ‘a striking picture: it will arrest the attention of all who glance at it,’ but continuing; We should not like to say it is unreal and untrue, and that the colouring is contrary to nature but it has that appearance to the ordinary spectator. [3]

When Gaut exhibited at the New Zealand Art Students Association exhibition later that year his ‘two large canvases were considered ‘sure to strike everyone’s eye; one is a sunset, the other a moonlight scene. But the colouring is altogether unreal. At least, that is our opinion. We never saw such images in nature, either in the antipodes or at home.’[4]

Joseph Gaut, Tawhiao, the Maori King (1888).


In 1888 Joseph Gaut made his first appearance of a different kind, as a plaintiff in Gaut v Tauri heard before Justice Ward of the Wanganui court. Joseph Gaut had disappeared from Auckland, or at least from public view, after an initial run of exhibitions. Perhaps realizing that the life of an artist hoping to establish himself in nineteenth century New Zealand was by necessity an itinerant one.Gaut had begun to travel around the major provincial cities. At the time these were relatively wealthy and offered a possible market for Gaut’s talents. Wanganui then New Zealand’s fifth largest city must have seemed a potentially rich target.

If Joseph Gaut has a little fame, it is via his surviving portraits of Maori, particularly that of Tawhiao, the Maori King (1888) exhibited at Melbourne Exhibition in 1889, and purchased by Australian pastoralist Sir William John Clarke. Maori subjects would however prove problematic for Gaut, at least when it came to payment. Although the details of the Wanganui case, against local chief Wiremu Te Tauri, are sketchy, the artist was eventually awarded £20 and an additional 20s in damages. In 1888 Gaut sent a large oil of the Manawhatu Gorge and another Maori portrait to the Dunedin exhibition of 1889 and he followed them soon after, arriving in the southern city in 1890. Soon after the large oil Dunedin Harbour at Sunrise (1890) appeared in the window of the Lochhead’s Universal Supply Depot in Princes street where it attracted a good deal of attention.

Joseph Gaut, Dunedin Harbour at Sunrise (1890)

The press – while complimentary – again noted that Gaut ‘has adopted a somewhat striking scheme of colour.’[5]  Despite the promise of success Gaut did not find a ready buyer for Dunedin Harbour at Sunrise and by October it had become the centerpiece of a private art union with a 100 shares offered at 10s 6d each. Dunedin did not prove particularly welcoming nor was his work universally admired with one critic described his A Sketch on the Leith as ‘not up to the exhibition mark.’ Consequently Gaut seems to have decided against settling permanently in the south. [6]

Gaut then disappears. By 1895 he had turned up, perhaps unexpectedly, in the Hawke’s Bay town of Hastings where it was reported that an equestrian portrait of the Ormond’s celebrated horse North Atlantic was on view at Messrs Hyde’s establishment. [7] Unused to resident artists, Hastings took to Gaut and would refer to him as ‘the Hastings artist’ and report his career in the local press long after he had departed the country. 1895 was a busy year for Joseph Gaut; he had entered a government-initiated competition to design New Zealand’s first postage stamps.

Prior to this New Zealand issued stamps had, in imitation of British stamps, carried images of Queen Victoria. The government’s decision to commission new pictorial stamps was an important one and defined the way New Zealand would there after be perceived internationally. Over 2000 entries to the competition were received in what was announced as a search for an image ‘symbolic of the land’ and then placed before a judging panel consisting artist Charles Barraud, architect Samuel Hurst Seager, T. Rose (Assistant Secretary and Inspector of the Post Office), Arthur Riley (Director of the Wellington Technical School), and S. Costall (Government Printer).[8]

Together Joseph Gaut and fellow designer W. R. Book took away the largest number of awards and mentions (seven each) receiving prize money of £33 6s. [9] Of two of Gaut’s designs the Auckland Star wrote –

The four-penny stamp, designed by Mr J. Gaut of Wellington, is a very pretty one. It is in two colours, the border being of deep orange, with black lettering, and the view in the centre is grey and white. This represents an Alpine scene, with characteristic flora in the foreground. The five-penny stamp is also designed by Mr Gaut, and is of the same character. The margin is of orange red, and the centre in tones of blue. The effect is charming. The central picture is a view of a lake with palm tree in the foreground and a mountain in the distance.[10]

Although Gaut won in the categories mentioned above, when the stamps came to be produced, Gaut’s initial design for the relatively obscure 4 penny stamp had been employed as the 1 penny stamp – the most widely used and broadly distributed of all stamps. An attractive two colour design in brown and blue it featured a view of Lake Taupo towards the mountains. By virtue of a near worldwide presence an image by Joseph Gaut became an internationally recognized symbol of New Zealand. Gaut’s penny stamp helped created the picturesque notion of a beautiful, scenic, and by in large empty – New Zealand. However this decision was not without its complications.

Printed in London by Waterlow and Sons, the two-colour process was time consuming and difficult – not best suited to a stamp with the highest volume. By 1899 years Gaut’s orange and blue design had been replaced by a red monochrome alternative and Gaut’s design reproduced slightly smaller as the four penny stamp.


It may have seemed to Gaut as if 1895 would prove to be the year he achieved the break through moment his career so badly needed. However by 1896 things were returning to normal. Joseph Gaut again found himself in court.  This time the case centred around non payment for ‘two enlarged portraits’ by Albert Hapuka for which Gaut was claiming the amount of £28.

The case revolved around the argument of the defendant, Albert Hapuka, that he had neither ordered, nor received the works in question – and that he had instead ordered works from a Mr. Hebberley and that Gaut’s works ‘had never been delivered to him but to another … at Te Hauko.’[11] On 11 April the case was adjourned awaiting evidence from the wife of Albert Hapuka.
The case was concluded at the next sitting in which the claim that the works were never received was repeated – along with a new claim that ‘a kiwi mat was given as part or whole payment for the portraits.

Joseph Gaut, portrait unidentified (c1890).

Residing Magistrate Mr. Turnbull took time to untangle the facts of the case and finally settled the case in favor of Gaut. He reminded observers that the case should be an object lesson to Europeans, and induce them to have in all cases of importance with Maori, verified by an interpreter. [12] The case seems to have marked a turning point for Joseph Gaut.

Life in New Zealand had proved difficult and by the end of the year he had disappeared, returning to Australia taking up residence in Leichardt, Sydney. There, in 1902, he sold his best oil and pastel paintings through the Messrs Lawson, Caro, and Co. The advertisement described Gaut as an artist who ‘has exhibited chiefly in New Zealand, where he is well known but he is also esteemed in Victoria and added that Visitors to the salerooms to-day will not fail to notice the picturesque beauty of the many New Zealand scenes illustrated by the painter.[13] It appears on closer examination that Gaut was doing more than selling up his New Zealand period works he was retiring from a career as an artist in favor of new pursuits.


Gaut’s career had undertaken a shift. Joseph Gaut, the artist, was well aware of the importance of photography and used it as part of his art process. Similarly an interest in equestrian painting had drawn him into the world of horse racing. Gaut had begun to consider improved methods of recording photographic representation of the finish line. In December that year the Hawke’s Bay Herald announced, ‘Mr. Joseph Gaut, lately of Hastings, but now of Renwick Street, Leichardt, near Sydney, New South Wales, artist, has patented an invention for an improved electric photographic timing recorder, especially useful for races.[14] At much the same time he patented an improved starting gate.

Joseph Gaut, US Patent 737732, Adjustable headrest for firearm,(1902).

Those New Zealanders, who having made the acquaintance of Joseph Gaut during his time in their country and now interested in following his Australian career, had to look no further than the ‘Colonial Inventions’ column which appeared regularly in the Evening Post.  In February 1898 Gaut’s ‘improvements in bicycles and like machines’ were listed.[15] The following month it was ‘improvements in electric fire-alarms’[16] and in November that year it was ‘improvements in photographic cameras.[17] Gaut’s next registered patent was for ‘improvements in firearms and small arms.’[18] This established a pattern for Joseph Gaut and the basis of a second career.

Gaut would spend the rest of his life as an inventor, largely focused on designing and improving photographic equipment and firearms. Joseph Gaut’s penultimate appearance in the press was, not unexpectedly, a 1934 court case, this time involving a property dispute. This was followed soon after by a funeral notice for the unmarried artist/inventor placed by his nieces and nephews.

No mention was made of his passing in the New Zealand press. Although Joseph Gaut received no extended obituary or professional summing up of his achievements in either the Australian or New Zealand press, the New Zealand years of his career are not without importance.

In many ways Gaut was a typical case, a colonial artist who found it difficult to establish a secure market or to access an informed critical response to his work and hence to reach a level of professionalism, which would have sustained a long-term career in the arts. Importantly Gaut never secured the important contacts that did Gottfried Lindauer, via Henry Edward Partridge, which opened up the market of wealthy Maori who wished to be immortalized in oil paint.

Gaut’s difficulty securing payment from either Tauri or Hapuka, indicate that as a sole operator he lacked a network that might have both protected and sustained him. The market for picturesque landscapes in colonial New Zealand was significant but vied with a tidal wave of reproductions. Gaut tried to compete in this difficult market but his ambitions, encapsulated in the size of Dunedin Harbour at Sunrise, did not match the response from the market and critical diffidence about his work. Given this context there is a irony that images by Joseph Gaut in the form of his penny stamp were as well recognized and collected around the world as any work by any other New Zealand artist.

Douglas lloyd Jenkins


A recent report of Sea Monsters

Andrea du Chatenier, Sad-eyed Oyster Man (2011)

Although cartographers have long-a-go stopped marking the borders of their maps with giant dolphins, the sighting of sea monsters has lessened not abated, perhaps because somewhere in our minds we know that they are there, lurking in the deep. As with all sightings – accounts of this most recent encounter vary; like figures in a masque by Indigo Jones, like a  three dimensional Durer etching, like the dark side of a Bernini fountain or as in a visitation from an Angus McBean. Are these the drowned companions and lovers of whom the sailors of old sung, risen up from the depths once more to speak to us, of life in Poisidens’ realm or are they simply fevered imaginings. Only one thing can be assured, these new works by Andrea du Chatenier provide irrefutable proof of the existence of, and necessity for, sea monsters.


Colonial Bride of the Sea

Giuseppe Castiglione (1829 – 1908) Lost in Reverie by The Bay of Naples.

In 1882 a visiting correspondent – S.C. – B – recorded his impressions of Napier in a five-part column in the local newspaper. He was flattering of the geniality of its citizens, despairing of its mud and charmed by its very well-appointed hotel accommodation.

True to that grand modern tradition of out-of-town visitors being forced to compare that particular somewhere with somewhere else, S.C. – B has comparisons thrust upon him from the moment of his arrival.  Such monotonous analogising appears to be a pursuit in which New Zealanders – with our peculiar blend of superiority, insecurity and worldliness – take particular pleasure in inflicting as a travellers penance on any person who dares step beyond the borders of their own town.

While today Napier-ites treasure our certain similarities with Brighton, Nice and even Santa Barbara – it appears the local citizenry were rather more ambitious the year 1882. No British, French or new world seaside towns for you Napier – nothing less than the grand and ancient city ports of Italy.

S.C. – B writes

‘Who that has been a ‘globe-trotter’ but knows the local weaknesses of each place, be it great or small? Boston has its big organ, San Francisco its Golden Gate, Sydney its harbour, Wellington the largest wooden building in the world, “sir” and that, by-the-way, is a fib – and Napier, I have just discovered, cherishes the fond idea that its bay resembles that of  Naples.’

Quite possibly ‘Lost in Contemplation of Similarities with Naples by the Bay of Napier’ - artist unknown

On the first day of his arrival he recounts, he is ‘trotted’ up the hill by a local enthusiast, and ‘pointed out the broad expanse of swamp on either side’.

“You have been in Venice?” asked the local enthusiast “Yes” replied the learn-ed visitor. “And in Naples?” “Yes”. “Now which do you think this most resembles?”

There certainly is a strong resemblance in the water, a sort of family resemblance— but it stops short there. If you could throw-in Vesuvius and a few other prominent features of he landscape, then Napier might be “in the same street” with Naples but until this can be accomplished the less said about it the better.

In all seriousness, S.C. – B goes onto say “those swamps on either side of this colonial Bride of the Sea (not the Adriatic) should be drained. Passing by them in hot weather Coleridge’s lines on Cologne might, I imagine, well be recalled—I counted two and seventy stenches – All well-defined and separate stinks.

The nearest approach to a comparison is that the names of both places commences with an N. Let Napier be satisfied with the fact that it is cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous than Naples, and forget that it is not so picturesque.[19]

The assiduous toil of men to reclaim land and divert rivers, and some rather significant acts of god in the years since 1882, mean Napier does err to Naples now, rather than Venice.   True, it has no Vesuvius but it does have some creditable mountain ranges to call their own; a bustling port; some very pretty buildings; sculptures, fountains and gardens abound on the seaward side; along with a fine art gallery and museum in the best European tradition. While the city centre, unlike that of Naples, may not yet be UNESCO listed, it just needs a little more time, and residents  might comfort themselves when considering that city’s 2,000 year head start.

Eloise Taylor



Figure 1. Joseph Gaut, 1 penny stamp (1895) private collection Napier.
[1]. ‘Art Lesson,’ Auckland Star, 31 July 1883. P.1.
[2]. ‘First Notice,’ Auckland Star, 24 April 1884. p. 2.
[3].  ibid.
[4]. ‘The Art Exhibition,’ Auckland Star, 15 October 1884.  p. 2.
Figure 2. Joseph Gaut, Tawhiao, the Maori King (1888). oil on canvas, collection of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Figure 3. Joseph Gaut, Dunedin Harbour at Sunrise (1890), oil on canvas, private collection.
[5]. ‘Untitled,’ Otago Daily Times, 10 July 1890. p. 2.
[6]. ‘Art Society Exhibition,’ Otago Daily Times, 26 November 1890, p. 4.
[7]. ‘Hastings,’ Hawke’s Bay Herald, 28 May 1895, p. 3.
[8]. ‘The New Postage and Revenue Stamps,’ Evening Post, 5 Sept 1895. p. 2.
[9]. ibid.
[10] ‘New Postage Stamps,’ Auckland Star. 13 September 1895. p. 1.
[11] ‘Hastings Court,’ Daily Telegraph , 11 April 1896. p. 3.
[12] ‘Hastings’ Daily Telegraph, 2 May 1896. p. 3.
[13] ‘Mr. Joseph Gaut’ Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Dec 1902. p. 9.
[14] Untitled, Hawke’s Bay Herald, 15 December 1896, p. 2.
Figure 4. Joseph Gaut, portrait unidentified Maori (c1890). International Art Centre, Auckland.
Figure 5. Joseph Gaut, Adjustable headrest for firearm,(1902) US Patent 737732.  http://www.google.com/patents/US737732
[15] ‘Colonial Inventions,’ Evening Post, 5 February 1898. p. 2.
[16] ‘Colonial Inventions,’ Evening Post, 21 March 1898.  p. 5.
[17] ‘Colonial Inventions,’ Evening Post, 24 November 1900. p. 2.
[18] ‘Colonial Inventions,’ Evening Post, 11 March 1901. p. 7.
Figure 6. Giuseppe Castiglione (1829 – 1908) Lost in Reverie by The Bay of Naples. see  www.the-athenaeum.org/art/full.php?ID=5952
Figure 7. Artist unknown, untitled, Collection Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust/Ruawharo Tau-u-Rangi 2009/125
[19] Hawke’s Bay Herald, 19 and 23 August 1882.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s