Dempsey, John Church, 1802-1877 (attributed): [Portrait of John Rutherford, the tattooed Englishman]

Dempsey, John Church, 1802-1877 (attributed): [Portrait of John Rutherford, the tattooed Englishman]
[ca 1829]
Dempsey, John Church, 1802-1877; Docker, Alfred, -1930?; Docker, Conrad Eley, 1895?-; Fox, Charles Arundel Overbury (Dr), 1886?-1971

Three-quarters length portrait of John Rutherford, wearing a top hat and European clothing. His face bears a full Māori moko, and he smokes a clay pipe. He carries a basket of hazelnuts over his left arm. Further tattooing can be seen on his left wrist and forearm. In his right hand he holds a wheel of fortune.

See also: Craik. G. L. The New Zealanders. London, 1830, p. 86 ff, for an account of John Rutherford's time spent amongst Maori, when he was tattooed.

A typed label is taped to backing board, describing the portrait and outlining the provenance, probably written either by a Mr Fox (likely to be Charles Fox, author of "Bibliographical notes on John Rutherford and Barnet Burns" (offprint from unpublished issue of "History and Bibliography" (Christchurch, 1950), pp. 228-90), an earlier owner, or by a Mr Docker (likely to be Conrad Eley Docker, an expatriate Englishman living in Tasmania and nephew of Alfred and Ethel Docker), and ending with the words 'Mr Ken Webster offered me £150 for it on 27th October 1960'.

The source of the attribution to George Scharf is not known, but is likely due to stylistic similarities. Scharf is recorded as the artist of hundreds of London street portraits from around the 1820s. The typed note attached to the verso of the portrait includes the statement 'Artist unknown'. Similar portraits in the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum have also been attributed to George Scharf, and more recently (2006) to John Church Dempsey by art historian Dr David Hansen, Senior Curator of Art, TMAG 1994-2004. One work in the Tasmanian collection has the phrase 'J. Dempsey pinxit' written on it.

Other Titles - John Rutherford, a sailor who lived 10 years in New Zealand

Inscriptions: Mat verso - top centre - John Rutherford, sailor who lived 10 years in New Zealand [in pencil, unidentified hand]

Quantity: 1 watercolour(s).

Physical Description: Watercolour, glaze and Chinese white on paper 190 x 140 mm (oval)

Provenance: Previously owned by a Mr Fox, who had been given it by the nephew of Mrs Alfred Docker. Previously recorded as part of the Docker collection of street characters (See Connoisseur, (1929) Vol 83, no. 331, p. 151). Presumably painted in England where Rutherford appeared in side shows. Alfred Docker's nephew gave a collection of 51 very similar watercolours to the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum in 1956.

Access restrictions
Partly restricted - Please use surrogate in place of original
1 watercolour(s), Works of art, Watercolours, Portraits, Watercolour, glaze and Chinese white on paper 190 x 140 mm (oval)
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Dempsey, John Church, 1802-1877. Dempsey, John Church, 1802-1877 (attributed): [Portrait of John Rutherford, the tattooed Englishman]. Ref: A-090-028. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22540146

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