Apr 7, 2009

Petrus van der Velden 1837-1913

Arriving from the Netherlands in 1890, and apart from five years at Sydney, the artist Petrus van der Velden lived in Christchurch until 1913.

Petrus and Sophia van der Velden in front of one of the two studios in the garden their house at the corner of Conference and Durham Streets, Christchurch, about 1893.

Left: the van der Velden house in 2009. Now much altered and converted into five flats, it would originally been of similar appear to its immediate neighbour (Right).

In spite of his 30 years of European experience as a professional artist his services were declined by the Canterbury College of Art. Accordingly, van der Velden received pupils for terms of thirteen lessons in two and a half hour sessions. He tutored some of Canterbury's most renowned artists, including Sydney Thompson and Raymond McIntyre.


During a visit to Auckland van der Velden contracted Bronchitis and died of heart failure on the 11th of November 1913. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Waikaraka cemetery three days later. The subsequent plaque (below) is of a somewhat later vintage.


In November 1963, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of van der Velden's death, one hundred of his paintings were exhibited at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.

Championed by Vincent van Gogh, his paintings are exhibited in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, but it could be considered a sad reflection upon Christchurch culture that, although we would seem to have a predilection for erecting monuments to, and naming bridges and parks, etc. after politicians and commercial magnates, eminent artists so widely regarded as van der Velden go uncommemorated.


A photographic portrait of Petrus van der Velden taken on the 9th of July, 1896 by Francis Lawrence Jones of Dunedin (courtesy of Early Canterbury Photographers).

Further Reading
Rodney Wilson; Petrus van der Velden 1837-1913 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Rodney Wilson; Petrus van der Velden: The Marken and Otira Series Art New Zealand.
Photo Credits
van der Velden grave: Sarndra Lee of Auckland - sarndra.com

Portrait: Alexander Turnbull Library; S. P. Andrew Collection (PAColl-3739),
Picture reference: 1/1-014987; G.

Studio: Robert McDougall Art Gallery;
A concise History of Art in Canterbury 1850-2000, Christchurch, 2000.


Jayne said...

I have read about him before and he wasn't too shabby in the arts dept!
Don't feel too badly - Australia ignored it's talented, too...unless there's $ in it somewhere.

Canterbury Photography said...

for another photograph of this artist - http://earlyotagophotographers.blogspot.com/2008/10/f-l-jones-dunedin.html

Canterbury Heritage said...

van der Velden's paintings are now in the NZ$100,000 to $150,000 bracket, but still nowhere as much as the work of some currently fashionable and extant native chappie from Port Chalmers.

Canterbury Photography said...

compare our artist's grave with ... say ... J.M.W.Turner's ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St_Pauls_aerial.jpg

kuaka said...

Ah, Petrus v V... Reminds me of one of those surprising encounters in life. Working on a Banks Peninsula farm as a young man, I mentioned during dinner up at the homestead said Mr van der Velden. After dinner, the owner's 80 yr+ mother quietly ushered me up to the formal dining room (i.e. not for the hired hands). There on the walls hung some half dozen van der Veldens. Knocked my socks off. Guess they'd be worth in excess of a half mil. these days. Wonder how many others are quietly minding their own business around the country in private hands.

Canterbury Heritage said...

Reminds me of when I was a still a bit of a lad and used to weekend up in the Wairarapa. It was one those 40+ roomed mansions that didn't belong to the "look at me" brigade and you won't find in the guide books.

In the dining room was a vast Tiepolo that the owner's great grandfather had bought in Europe and then had it carted up from Wellington on a Bullock dray. The house was full of that sort of stuff and I reckon that it's all still there.

Sarndra said...

LOL ahhhh i love those 'down memory lane' stories guys :-) Lovely photo's there Mr CH ... poor Petrus :-( he looks so sad.

Do we know where Sophia is buried?

Canterbury Heritage said...

Sophia van der Velden died on the 1st of May 1899, almost certainly at Sydney.