Drawings, paintings, and prints collecting plan

Find out about collecting and priorities for the Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collection

Purpose

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collection is a national collection developed to sustain in-depth research in New Zealand and Pacific studies. The purpose of this collecting plan is to provide a foundation for the collection development activities specific to the Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library, part of the National Library of New Zealand.

This collecting plan was developed in accordance with the collecting principles outlined in the National Library of New Zealand Collection Policy.

National Library of New Zealand's Collections Policy.

Definitions

The terms paintings, drawings, and prints refer to works of visual art, ranging from original paintings and drawings executed in a variety of media, to limited-edition fine art prints. Commercial artwork, original illustrations designed for published items, and multimedia art works, including born-digital art works, are also included within these definitions, and selected examples may be included within the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection.

Scope of the Collection

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library is New Zealand’s most extensive collection of non-photographic pictorial art works, documenting the history of New Zealand, and the discovery, exploration and colonisation of the Pacific Ocean and Oceanic cultures by European nations.

The collection has been developed from the nucleus of fine art works collected by Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull to complement his extensive bibliographic collection, bequeathed to the nation of New Zealand on his death in 1918. The drawings, paintings and prints include some of the earliest depictions of Māori and Pasifika peoples in existence, and many portraits of named individuals from the eighteenth century to the present.

The record of cultural and material development in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, found especially in art works in the collection which predate widespread use of photography, provides an indispensable illustrative resource for historical research. As such the collection has been heavily used over the past one hundred years by researchers seeking illustrations for a wide variety of research and publications.

A significant amount of original unofficial war art by New Zealand military personnel is included within the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection, and these holdings are actively augmented by selected acquisitions as opportunities arise.

Many art works in the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection form the original sources for printed illustrations in New Zealand and Pacific Published collections.

Internationally significant holdings in the collection include original material by artists from Cook’s voyages including William Hodges, John Webber and William Wade Ellis. Among extensive holdings of European old master prints are notable collections of fine engravings by Piranesi and Hogarth, among others. Original art illustrative of early Australian subjects from 1788 to 1900 is held in the collection, for the most part collected by Alexander Turnbull.

Stylistic developments in the visual arts of twentieth and twenty-first century New Zealand are comparatively under-represented in the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection. Research into cross-cultural narratives in the arts in New Zealand since 1920 is currently not well supported by the collection. In support of such cultural research the Library now recognises the need to develop the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection to reflect key narratives in New Zealand visual arts involving interactions between European, Māori and Pacific Island cultural heritages. Themes to be addressed during the period of this plan include:

  • the influence of Māori and Pacific Islands visual culture on the work of European and Pākehā artists;
  • the adoption by artists of Māori and Pacific Islands descent of European art traditions and their use of these traditions in the expression of cultural identity
  • significant collaborations between visual arts practitioners in New Zealand and practitioners in other arts fields, including music, literature, drama, and new media
  • the responses of New Zealand artists to the international modern movement in the arts 1920-1980, especially those of women artists in New Zealand
  • New Zealand’s increasingly diverse demographic as reflected in the visual arts

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection includes original cartoon artwork and is administered in conjunction with the New Zealand Cartoon Archive collection which includes over 35,000 digital cartoons, and over 2000 cartoon bromides.

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection is documented by approximately 112,000 records on Tiaki, the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Unpublished Collections databases. These records document approximately (with some overlap):

  • 900 paintings in oil, acrylic or similar media, framed and unframed
  • 32,000 drawings and watercolours (including individually catalogued pages in sketchbooks and approximately 12,000 original cartoon art works on paper)
  • 9000 fine art prints
  • 7,500 architectural plans (note approximately 5000 plans lack individual records)
  • 1000 three-dimensional objects and artifacts (Curios)
  • 650 bound sketchbooks
  • 48,500 legacy copy photographs in various formats recording items in the collection

Pacific scope

The Library selectively collects material relating to the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders, (in addition to the records of New Zealanders active in the Pacific and Pasifika people living in New Zealand) Priority is given to those countries that New Zealand has had a strong historical involvement with.

Antarctic scope

The Library selectively collects material relating to the history of Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands involving New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Exclusions

Excluded from the scope of this collection:

  • visual art works that are primarily photographic in format
  • three-dimensional artefacts are normally excluded from this plan, unless they have a strong link to materials of related provenance in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library. Portrait busts, medals, trophies and other commemorative objects may be considered for acquisition from time to time as important records of New Zealand identities and events.
  • duplicate items already held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, unless superior in quality to existing holdings of similar materials.
  • copies of items (microfilm, digital scans, and photocopies); the Library is concentrating on collecting the most original version of unique materials.
  • mass-produced reproduction visual art prints such as photolithographs.
  • items in poor condition, or which pose a risk to the collections

Material that falls outside the scope of this plan may be accepted if it forms part of a larger multi-format collection that the Library wishes to acquire, or if it provides context for other items in the Library’s collections.

Current collection strengths

Collection strengths are identified as subject areas that the Library is already strong in. Highlights in the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection include:

  • The paintings and drawings of both amateur and professional nineteenth and early twentieth century New Zealand artists.
  • Comprehensive holdings of fine prints depicting New Zealand and Pacific subjects from the eighteenth century to about 1920.
  • Original drawings and paintings of New Zealand and Pacific subjects from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries documenting European exploration and colonization of the Pacific Islands and their cultures, providing an indispensable pictorial record of the cultural heritage of New Zealand and the Pacific from the point of first contact between European and indigenous Pacific Island cultures.
  • Internationally significant holdings of prints and drawings include engravings by Piranesi and Hogarth, and prints and drawings by and after artists associated with the voyages of James Cook, including works by William Hodges, William Wade Ellis, and John Webber. Early travel artists in the Pacific such as Augustus Earle are also strongly represented.
  • A significant number of original art works by artists working in Australia from 1788 through the nineteenth century are present in the collection, including works by George Raper and Eugen von Guérard.
  • The New Zealand Cartoon Archive features a large collection of editorial cartoon art surveying the history of editorial cartooning from the beginnings of journalism in New Zealand to the present. Highlights include original cartoon art works by Trevor Lloyd, David Low, Gordon Minhinnick, Tom Scott, Peter Bromhead, Trace Hodgson, Chris Slane, and many others. Born-digital editorial cartoons have been collected since 2002.
  • The architectural plan collection is strongest for the Wellington Region, from the 1890s to the 1970s and includes comprehensive representation of the work of seven Wellington firms.

Collecting principles

The National Library of New Zealand Collection Development Policy provides a suite of principles that guide all collecting across the published and unpublished collections by the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library.

National Library of New Zealand Collection Policy.

The relevant principles from the Collection Development Policy are provided below, with an explanation of how they will be realised for the Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection.

Principle 1

Developing breadth and depth in the Library’s research collections requires decisions to be informed by, and responsive to, current and emerging research trends as well as the anticipated needs of future generations of New Zealanders.

Action

Drawings, Paintings and Prints staff take an active role in the New Zealand and Pacific studies research community. This active role enables the Library to be more informed about identifying the items that can be useful for researchers of tomorrow.

The Library welcomes and encourages dialogue with any part of the research community regarding the collection of drawings, paintings and prints that supports an existing or identified future research need.

In developing the Drawings Paintings and Prints collection over the duration of this plan, staff will actively address areas in which the collection is demonstrably weak in documenting developments in artistic expression and practice during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, for example paintings and graphic art by Māori and Pasifika artists working in New Zealand.

Principle 2

Active engagement with iwi, hapū and whānau helps build good collections of documentary heritage and tāonga created by Māori and relating to Māori, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Action

The Library has a strong collection of works of art relating to Māori history and traditions dating from the late eighteenth century, including portraits of Māori, depictions of Māori cultural life and records of Māori-Pākehā interactions, and will continue to build on this strength.

The Library is committed to ensuring records of Māori are collected, preserved and made available to the highest possible standard, in ways that are acceptable to Māori, and are carried out in consultation with appropriate iwi and pan-iwi representatives.

In developing the Drawings Paintings and Prints collection over the duration of this plan, staff will actively address the collection’s weakness in documenting twentieth and twenty-first century developments in visual art practice by Māori artists, especially in graphic art media.

Principle 3

The Library has an important leadership role in collaborating and coordinating collection related activities across institutional and national boundaries to enable New Zealanders to connect to information important to their lives, and to support strong documentary heritage and tāonga collections for all New Zealanders.

Action

The Library always considers the most appropriate repository for a collection prior to acquisition, which can often be another institution within New Zealand or further abroad.

Potential areas for collaborative or coordinated proactive collection will be explored with other institutions, especially when the Library’s born-digital collecting capacity can be utilized, and gaps in relevant national holdings identified.

Principle 5

The Library takes into account the cost of acquiring, storing, managing, and making accessible collection items when building its collections.

Action

The Library’s process for approval to purchase collection items includes consideration of cost and benefit, and is followed at all times when the Crown’s acquisition budget is used to build collections.

For items that are donated to the Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collection, the Library considers the total cost of collecting, processing, conserving, and providing access as part of the appraisal process in order to determine the value of the items managed in perpetuity as New Zealand documentary heritage.

Collecting priorities

The Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collection is developed to sustain advanced research in New Zealand studies and preserve cultural heritage in perpetuity for all New Zealanders; it is not however possible to collect comprehensively works of national significance across all aspects of New Zealand social, economic and cultural life. The Library prioritizes certain collecting areas in order to focus limited resources to build on existing collection strengths, to fill gaps in the collection, and to respond to the changing needs of researchers now and in the future.

Ensuring that the Library collects as widely as possible within the remit of the areas documented in this plan, and in a collaborative/coordinated way with other New Zealand collecting institutions are strategies employed to mitigate collecting bias

Collecting priorities are grouped into two categories:

Current priorities: are recognised emerging research trends; areas where there is a known gap in the Library’s collection or national documentation. The Library will proactively collect in these areas in order to fill gaps to meet researcher need and balance the Drawings Paintings and Prints collection.

Ongoing priorities: are areas in which the Library welcomes offers of drawings, paintings and prints to complement existing collection strengths

Current priorities

During the 2021–2023 collecting period the Library will actively focus resources on acquiring selected drawings, paintings and prints representative of the following themes:

  • selected works of art by artists of Māori and Pacific Island heritage, created in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in both traditional and new visual art media, which reference or express Māori and Pasifika culture
  • selected works of art by senior New Zealand artists which reflect and document developing awareness and interaction with Māori and Pacific Island cultural heritages during the twentieth century
  • selected works of art which reflect and document the responses of New Zealand artists to the international modern movement in the arts 1920-1980, especially those of women artists in New Zealand
  • selected works of art which reflect and document significant interactions between practitioners of visual art in New Zealand and practitioners of practitioners in other arts fields, including music, literature, drama, and new media
  • selected examples of unofficial art works by New Zealand military personnel recording aspects of military life from 1840 to the present.

Ongoing priorities

  • Portraits: to c. 1920 of identified and unidentified New Zealand and Pacific people; to the present of identified New Zealand and Pacific people notable at a national or international level
  • Works of art depicting natural and modified environments especially where such works clearly illustrate significant changes in those environments, natural or man-made.
  • Works of art representing aspects of the social and cultural life of New Zealanders and their communities
  • New Zealand and Pacific natural history subjects, especially from the pre-photography era
  • Cartoons and caricatures by New Zealand artists, and of New Zealand and Pacific subjects, including but not limited to editorial cartoons
  • Selected architectural plans especially those representative of significant Wellington architects and architectural practices
  • Limited edition fine art prints published in New Zealand or of New Zealand subjects published elsewhere
  • Original art work for book illustrations by New Zealand artists or published in New Zealand

Supporting documentation

This collecting plan is supported by further documentation that outlines some of the criteria, objectives, and processes for assessing and documenting Drawings, Paintings and Prints collecting decisions.

Contact

Oliver Stead , Curator Drawings, Paintings and Prints, Alexander Turnbull Library.
Email — oliver.stead@dia.govt.nz

Download the Drawings, paintings and prints collecting plan

Drawings, paintings and prints collecting plan (pdf, 176KB)

Last updated 2016