Apr 18, 2009

Maurice Conly, Artist


At the end of a 3,488 kilometre flight from Christchurch, NZ7005, a 1969 Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's No.40 Squadron unloads passengers and supplies at the Williams Field on the Ross Ice Shelf in McMurdo Sound in early 1974.

Seen above in original livery, but subsequently painted out in shades of camouflauge green and now in a monochrome gun-metal grey, the 40 year old aircraft is still in service with the RNZAF.

No work of a local artist would be more familiar to New Zealanders than that of the relatively unknown Maurice Conly.

For 54 years Wing Commander Robert Maurice Conly (1920-1995) was the last Royal New Zealand Air Force Official Artist. But beyond his stamp designs for New Zealand, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, Niue and the Cook Islands, Conly's New Zealand twenty cent and one dollar coin designs are familiar to all Kiwis.

Dunedin born and trained, Conly was based at Christchurch when he returned to Antarctica in 1974 as an Antarctic Arts Fellow under the Artists to Antarctica Programme.

Commissioned to paint three large dioramas of wildlife studies for the Antarctic wing of the Canterbury Museum in 1977, he published Ice on my Palette in the same year. The coffee table sized book includes 27 sketches and 26 colour plates, with text by the Dunedin author Neville Peat, then an information officer with the Antarctic Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

One of the joys of the last town before Antarctica is the weekend Flea markets, not the trendy version on the city's outskirt at Riccarton, but the smaller, lesser known markets dotted around the inner suburbs. Signed by the authors, a copy of Ice on my Palette (from which the top illustration comes) was recently found in the Linwood Market at approximately a fifty-sixth of its international market value.


kuaka said...

i smell a whiff of arbitrage in the air...

Canterbury Heritage said...

Having acquired far too much junque one had given up the markets a couple of years ago, but the Linwood affair had moved its regular Sunday event to Monday for Easter. So inadvertantly chanced upon, one lurked with faltering intent, only to espy the Antarctic book, a subject long collected.

The ridiculously low price was only exceeded by a set of Art Deco silver handled knives and thus escape was facilitated by a total expenditure of no more than seven dollars.

Not having a proclivity to the brocantage persuasion one has forsworn further lapse, but to the cognoscente, with an Internet auction account, there's undoubtedly rich pickings to be had.

Jayne said...

Well spotted and well done!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks Jayne, one might have given up the markets, but the pursuit of local ephemera on eBay and TradeMe is proving a more difficult addiction to break.

Sarndra said...

Very cool indeed :-)

I am getting in to collecting ephemera now also, mainly Cantabiran ephemera of course. I have just joined the NZ Society of Ephemerist :-) ... ohhh bizarre to, because my ex husband had an ancestor called Maurice Conley Fergusson LOL...so similar a name....!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Yet another pile of accumulated ephemera is overdue for archiving, but it's beginning to disappear under various bits of an old car currently being resurrected from the bottom of the garden, so can be ignored for awhile longer.

The NZ Society of Ephemerists looks to have the potential to be of interest. It shares the same postal address as Smith's Book Shop in Manchester Street, with the proprietor and a printing chum running the show. It was also interesting to note that copies of the second issue of the Journal, which is yet to be available on the Society's web site, are being offered for sale on TradeMe by the printer.

With a proposed two issues a year and high production values, in the fullness of time the Journal will undoubtedly become collectible in its own right, but a flickr search currently results in a wider and more interesting collection of NZ ephemera than the Society makes available on-line.

Sarndra said...

*grin* no rest for the wicked! What type of ephemera awaits your tender care?

Yes, i only found out about the Ephemerist Society after doing a trawl of trademe for ephemera...they had a hardcopy of the first journal for sale and i thought that hey i might as well join the society and get 2 journals a year for just over the price of one up for auction.

Very interesting re the same address as Smiths! You are so observant ;-) I think it is a positive if such a society has the backing of those that have been in the know for quite an established time in Christchurch, knowledge shared and all that :-) Hopefully as it's only a new venture, time will be kind and eventually their website will expand even more!

Canterbury Heritage said...

The ephemera is mostly newspaper clippings and photo copies from the library and museum, but there's also auction and Smith's Bookshop acquired photos & postcards, the 1973 Christchurch Arts Festival souvenir brochure, the City Council's 40 page brochure for the opening of the M.E.D. building on the 6th of May 1939, some Robert McDougall Art Gallery bulletins, and various old copies of Landfall,etc.

Keep the Ephemerist Society membership receipt; it's quite probably work-related tax deductible.

Cheryl Bernstein said...

Thanks for this post: I really like now being able to name the artist who painted the Antarctic dioramas when I visit the Museum. Any idea about the artist for the other old painted dioramas in the bird hall?

Canterbury Heritage said...

The Ornithogical dioramas were painted by Ray Jacobs, who died in the mid 70s. The Moa-hunter diorama was painted by Leo Cappel, who left the Canterbury Museum at the end of 1964 and now lives on Kawau Island.

Cheryl Bernstein said...

I thought you'd know! Cheers.