Drawings, Paintings, and Prints

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection holds drawings, prints, paintings, cartoons, architectural plans and objects relating to New Zealand and the Pacific from 1642 to the present.

More than 100,000 watercolours, drawings, sketchbooks, oil paintings and prints are in the collection. Most feature New Zealand scenes, people and events.

Many early pictures relate to Māori or their way of life, and the earliest days of European contact and settlement. Images also cover the development of early towns and cities, exploration, natural history and science, shipping, and wars.

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection also contains the New Zealand Cartoon Archive.

Four watercolours from the collection
L to R: (1) Drummond-Fish, George, 1876-fl.1938 :Anzac Camp, Gallipoli, 1915. Ref: A-234-014 (2) Featon, Sarah Ann, 1848?-1927: Karaka - Corynocarpus laevigata. [ca 1890]. Ref: A-171-021 (3) [Hodges, William] 1744-1797 :Tanna [1774]. Ref: G-365 (4) Branfill, Benjamin Aylett (Colonel), 1828-1899 :After a long day on the run. 1884. Ref: G-007

Highlights include the work of:

  • English artists who came to New Zealand and the Pacific with Captain Cook between 1769 and 1779
  • French artists visiting between 1824 and 1840
  • artists associated with the early colonisation of New Zealand from 1839 to about 1850
  • artists who painted incidents in the New Zealand Wars, and the First and Second World Wars
  • painters recording changes made by humans to the landscape from the 1840s to about 1900
  • natural history artists
  • New Zealand cartoonists from the 1880s to the present
  • portrait artists
Four watercolours from the collection.
L to R: (1) Heaphy, Charles, 1820-1881 :Mt Egmont from the southward. [September? 1840]. Ref: C-025-008 (2) Clouston, Robert Stewart, 1857-1911 :[Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull] 16 9 [19]09. Ref: G-600 (3) Mesnard, Theodore Romuald Georges 1814-1844 :Vue de Kororareka, baie des iles, Nlle Zelande. Plate 87. [October or November 1838]. Ref: A-234-010 (4) King, Marcus, 1891-1983 :[The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, February 6th, 1840]. 1938. Ref: G-821-2

The collection also features:

  • early Australian drawings, prints and images of Antarctica
  • some European prints from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries
  • prints relating to the work of John Milton
  • portraits of well-known New Zealanders from the early 19th century onwards, including some sculptures
  • architectural drawings and plan prints for buildings, mostly in the greater Wellington area
  • art-related ephemera, such as New Zealand exhibition catalogues or clippings of reviews
  • three-dimensional objects, such as personal items belonging to Katherine Mansfield, Sumerian clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions, and writing on papyrus
Four watercolours from the collection.
L to R: (1) [Ashworth, Edward] 1814-1896 :[Auckland looking North. 1843?]. Ref: A-275-007 (2) Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923 (Collector) :[Brass pig penwiper, early twentieth century?]. Ref: Curios-018-1-008 (3) Cooper, Alfred John, 1831-1869 :Ahi Raranga Mohaka [April] 1861. Ref: A-235-012
Plan of proposed church at Plimmerton
Clere, Frederick de Jersey, 1856-1952 :[Plan of] proposed church at Plimmerton. 20.8.16. Ref: Plans-80-0834

Access items in the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection

This collection can be accessed in the Charles Heaphy secure reading room on Level 2 of the National Library building in Molesworth Street.

All items are listed on Tiaki, the catalogue for the Alexander Turnbull Library unpublished collections. You can also find them by searching the National Library website.

Four watercolours from the collection.
L to R: (1) Gold, Charles Emilius, 1809-1871 :Wining's Wairau New Zealand. April 1851. Ref: A-447-002 (2) Mitchell, Sam, 1971-: Portrait of Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull. Ref: G-062-2 (3) Strutt, William 1825-1915 :A group I once saw in Maori Land. New Plymouth. 1856. Ref: E-453-f-005 (4) Gully, John, 1819-1888 :[From central moraine of the great Godley Glacier, 5 March 1862]. 1863. Ref: D-037-001

Get copies from items in this collection

You can obtain copies of items in this collection that are already digitised, if restrictions and copyright allow. Making reference copies using a personal digital camera is allowed at the discretion of the Curator.

More about making copies

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Further assistance

We can answer your enquiries in person, by letter, phone or email. For more information, use our online Ask a Librarian form.