The Plutarch of Maoriland: James Cowan and Pictures of Old New Zealand
James Cowan’s Pictures of Old New Zealand (1930) documents the Partridge Collection of paintings by Gottfried Lindauer in full-page, half-tone illustrations accompanied by historical biographies. Lavish by New Zealand’s publishing standards of 1930, the book originated in an earlier, unillustrated guide to the collection overseen by a much younger Cowan in 1901. This essay discusses the genesis of many biographies in manuscripts solicited by Partridge from his friend James Mackay, a “fixer” between Māori and Pākehā worlds in the late nineteenth century who personally knew many of the subjects. It further argues that Cowan’s Pictures of Old New Zealand deserves recognition as the first significant art monograph to be published in New Zealand.
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