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‘The national collection of the future’: the gift of Sir Harold Beauchamp

Jill Trevelyan considers the Harold Beauchamp Fund, a legacy that has lasted nearly a century

<P data-associrn="1539295"></P> <P>Visiting the art galleries at Te Papa, you may have noticed a name that recurs in the wall labels. For many pictures, acquired over nearly eight decades, the credit line is: ‘Purchased with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.’ How, you might ask, could one person have made such an impact on the collection &#8211; and across so many years? Who was this benefactor, and what motivated him?</P> <P data-associrn="1539297"></P> <P>Sir Harold Beauchamp (1858&#8211;1938) occupies a special place in the history of Te Papa and its predecessor, the National Art Gallery. In 1923, when the long-awaited National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum was still in the planning, he was the first private individual to gift funds specifically for the purchase of pictures. From 1936, the year the gallery opened, to 2015, an astonishing 296 works were acquired with funds provided by Sir Harold. His generosity continued to benefit the gallery decades after his death, and his name will always be associated with some of the best-loved works in the national collection.</P> <P data-associrn="1539302"></P> <P>In his time Harold Beauchamp was known as a ‘wizard of finance’,<SUP><FONT size=2>1</FONT></SUP> a highly successful businessman, and a pillar of Wellington society. His opinion mattered, and he was quoted on a wide range of topics &#8211; trade, finance, the British economy, and the future of the colony. His photograph appeared regularly in the press, and he was caricatured as a portly yet dapper Edwardian gentleman, an instantly recognisable figure. </P> <P data-associrn="1539303"></P> <P>Today he is chiefly remembered as the father of New Zealand’s most renowned author, Katherine Mansfield, who left her own pen-portrait: </P> <BLOCKQUOTE style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" dir=ltr> <P>'Not tall &#8211; very healthy looking &#8211; with white hair and a small clipped beard &#8211; large blue eyes &#8211; and expansive voice. In fact he looks like a typical Colonial banker! And simply full of Life.'<SUP><FONT size=2>2</FONT></SUP> </P></BLOCKQUOTE> <P>Mansfield’s New Zealand stories feature an upwardly mobile Wellington patriarch, the demanding and self-satisfied Stanley Burnell, but her father was a much more complex personality. Harold Beauchamp was interested in art, music and M&#257;ori culture; and although he was challenged by his rebellious daughter, he encouraged her ambition and took pride in her achievement. Indeed, his first act of artistic patronage was the financial support he lent her career, funding her education and passage to England and providing her with an income all her adult life. As critic Mark Williams has remarked, Mansfield’s career as an artist depended to a large extent on the money her father sent to her in London.<SUP><FONT size=2>3</FONT></SUP> </P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>Harold Beauchamp was a self-made man and proud of it. Born in Ararat, Victoria, Australia, he came to New Zealand with his parents at the age of two. In 1869, his father established himself as a merchant and auctioneer in Wanganui, and Harold joined him when he left school, clerking, sweeping the office, and bagging lime, often until late at night. When the family moved to Wellington in the late 1870s, Harold joined an importing firm, W M Bannatyne and Company,<SUP><FONT size=2>4</FONT></SUP> where his energy and acumen soon made him indispensable. In 1889, he became a partner; five years later he took over the business. By then he had begun to accumulate company directorships, including the New Zealand Candle Company, the Gear Meat Company, and the Wellington Harbour Board. His appointment as Chairman of the Bank of New Zealand in 1898 confirmed his influence &#8211; and he had only just turned 40.</P> <P>By the new century he was also becoming known for his sense of civic responsibility. As a journalist put it, ‘Mr. Harold Beauchamp may, in reality, be classed as one of New Zealand’s busiest men, still, he finds time to take a keen interest in any movement for the promotion of our colony’s welfare.’<SUP><FONT size=2>5</FONT></SUP> One of his key causes was the plan to build a national gallery, and he was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. Having visited great art collections overseas, he understood the role that a gallery could play in nurturing a sense of national culture and identity. And as a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts &#8211; Wellington’s art society &#8211; he was sorely aware of what was lacking in the capital.<SUP><FONT size=2>6</FONT></SUP> As he recalled in his memoirs, <BLOCKQUOTE style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" dir=ltr> ‘[Y]ear after year when we foregathered, packed like sardines in the poor little premises in Whitmore Street, I felt it was a reproach to the city of Wellington that we could not house our own art collection better than that, to say nothing of the national collection of the future.’<SUP><FONT size=2>7</FONT></SUP> </P></BLOCKQUOTE> <P data-associrn="41673"></P> <P>Beauchamp had intended to leave a posthumous bequest to the ‘national collection of the future’, but by 1923, recently knighted, he felt he could wait no longer. He decided to donate his former family home &#8211; a large property with a ballroom, croquet lawns and gardens at 47 Fitzherbert Terrace in Thorndon &#8211; to establish a trust fund for the purchase of pictures. That property was Katherine Mansfield’s last New Zealand home, and her biographer, Antony Alpers, suggests that her recent death may have influenced her father’s decision.<SUP><FONT size=2>8</FONT></SUP> In his letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Sir Harold mentioned his desire to create in the minds of young New Zealanders ‘a love for art in its best and truest form.’<SUP><FONT size=2>9</FONT></SUP> </P> <P data-associrn="38995"></P> <P>He planned his bequest with great care. The sum from the sale of Fitzherbert Terrace was to accrue until it reached £15,000, and then the annual interest would provide a perpetual fund for purchases.<SUP><FONT size=2>10</FONT></SUP> He deliberately left the criteria open: ‘pictures of the highest artistic quality irrespective of the nationality or place of residence of the painter.’<SUP><FONT size=2>11</FONT></SUP> His support for the gallery did not end there, however: a year later he gave £5,000 towards the construction project. He recalled the opening of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum on 1 August 1936 as a high point in his career &#8211; ‘the fulfilment of a twenty-five-year-old dream.’<SUP><FONT size=2>12</FONT></SUP> </P> <P>In his memoirs, published the following year, Sir Harold explained his interest in philanthropy: </P> <P>‘I had felt it a duty to show appreciation of the city to which I came many years ago without the proverbial shilling in my pocket ....’<SUP><FONT size=2>13</FONT></SUP> Convinced that the wealthy had a responsibility to society, he was critical of those who did not feel an obligation to share their good fortune. He noted two such cases: ‘One man with a fortune of £750,000 and another with £400,000 had not left a penny piece to the city in which they made it.’ To Sir Harold, they had failed in their duty.</P> <P data-associrn="43316"></P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P>In its first decade, the National Art Gallery was largely dependent on gifts, as it was not until 1946 that Sir Harold’s trust fund reached the targeted sum of £15,000. In 1936, however, the year the gallery opened, some funds were advanced for a special project. The Governor-General Lord Bledisloe was departing New Zealand, and the sum of £500 was advanced in part-payment of a portrait of him by John A Berrie. This was the first purchase from the Harold Beauchamp Trust fund. </P> <P data-associrn="36573"></P> <P data-associrn="44359"></P> <P>Two years later Sir Harold died, leaving a further £5000 for the fund in his Will. When the original sum reached maturity in 1946 it came to a total of £20,000 &#8211; the equivalent of nearly $2,000,000 today. Initially it yielded just £300 per annum, but as art historian William McAloon has noted, by allowing funds to accumulate over several years ‘the gallery was able to make significant purchases during this period.’<SUP><FONT size=2>14</FONT></SUP> </P> <P data-associrn="213867"></P> <P data-associrn="1493402"></P> <P>Initially those purchases were almost exclusively of British art, reflecting the taste of the period as well as broader social mores. Britain was still ‘Home’ to many P&#257;keh&#257; New Zealanders, and its art was held as a benchmark and a model for local aspirations. Under the gallery’s first director, Stewart Maclennan, many fine paintings by modern British artists entered the collection: Harold Gilman’s <EM>Girl dressing</EM> (about 1912), Walter Sickert’s <EM>The blue hat</EM> (1914), Matthew Smith’s <EM>Dahlias in a green bowl</EM> (1938-40), and Ivon Hitchens’ <EM>Terwick Mill pool</EM> (about 1945), to name just a few. Also a priority were British drawings and watercolours of the 18th and 19th centuries, and some 28 works were acquired &#8211; by Thomas Gainsborough, John Sell Cotman, Thomas Rowlandson, Edward Lear, Joseph Mallord William Turner, and John Constable. </P> <P>When Melvin Day succeeded Maclennan in 1968 the British focus continued,&nbsp; with such key works as John Piper’s <EM>Collage, still life with black head</EM> (1933) and Alfred Wallis’s <EM>Two-master and fishing fleet</EM> (about 1930). Day also acquired a small group of Old Master drawings and prints for the Harold Beauchamp Collection, including works by Marten van Heemskerck, Agostino Carracci, and Albrecht Dürer. Nor was modern French art neglected: a notable addition was <EM>Mirmande landscape</EM> (1925) by Andre Lhote, one of the original cubists and an influential teacher and modernist. </P> <P>In 1970, Day bought the first work by a New Zealander to be purchased with Beauchamp funds: Frances Hodgkins’s ethereal watercolour, <EM>Two plates</EM> (about 1931). It was followed by three major contemporary paintings later in the decade: Colin McCahon’s <EM>Ahipara</EM> (1970), Don Driver’s <EM>Horizontal No. 2</EM> (1970-71), and Milan Mrkusich’s <EM>Painting blue</EM> (1976). But it was not until Luit Bieringa became director in 1979 that collecting New Zealand art took priority. Sir Harold’s bequest enabled purchases by many local contemporaries in the following years, including Philip Clairmont, Ralph Hotere, Tony Fomison, Don Driver, Gretchen Albrecht, and Richard Killeen. Meanwhile photography became a new area of focus, with the acquisition of Anne Noble’s portfolio, <EM>The Wanganui</EM> (1982), and works by Peter Peryer, Rhondda Bosworth, Glenn Busch, Ian Macdonald, Janet Bayly, Lucien Rizos, and Wayne Barrar. </P> <P>In 2005 the Public Trust Office, which had managed the Harold Beauchamp Trust since its inception, contacted Te Papa to discuss the Trust’s future. After nearly sixty years of disbursements, the annual interest on the original sum had little purchasing power and was being further eroded by administration fees. At the Public Trust Office’s suggestion, Sir Harold’s Trust was eventually wound up and the sum of $40,000 transferred to the museum. Two final purchases were made in 2015: a group of twenty prints by English and European artists (Jan Both, Jean-Louis Forain, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and others), dating from 1520 to 1909; and a print portfolio by a central figure in 20th-century American abstraction, Ad Reinhardt. His <EM>10 screenprints</EM> (1966), based on his iconic ‘black paintings’ of the 1950s and 1960s, provides an interesting context for key New Zealand artists such as Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere. </P> <P>Together, these two recent acquisitions, spanning a 400-year history of art, bookmark a legacy that has lasted nearly a century. They reflect the range and quality of the works acquired for the national art collection due to the far-sighted generosity of one man &#8211; Sir Harold Beauchamp. <BR></P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P><FONT size=2>Endnotes</P> <OL> <LI>‘Sir Harold Beauchamp: New Zealand’s Wizard of Finance’, <EM>Truth</EM>, 18 August 1927, p 6</LI> <LI>Quoted in Roberta Nicholls, ‘Beauchamp, Harold’, from the <EM>Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand</EM>, <A href=""></A>, retrieved 15 May 2016</LI> <LI>See Mark Williams, ‘The Pa man: Sir Harold Beauchamp’, in <EM>Katherine Mansfield’s Men</EM>, ed. Charles Ferrall & Jane Stafford, Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in association with Steele Roberts Publishers, Wellington: 2004, p 25</LI> <LI>Bannatyne’s supplied ‘Nobel’s dynamite, Eureka axes, and Light-of-the-Age kerosene, along with Teacher’s Highland Cream, Dr. Townsend’s sarsaparilla, Dresden pianos, Egyptian cigarettes and Pain’s Fireworks - everything, in short, that was needed for the breaking in of a rude colony, and the comfort in the process of its uprooted middle class …’, Antony Alpers, <EM>The Life of Katherine Mansfield</EM>, Jonathan Cape, London: 1980, p 4</LI> <LI>‘Messrs W.M. Bannatyne & Co Ltd’, <EM>Progress</EM>, Volume I, Issue 2, 1 December 1905, p 41</LI> <LI>The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, established in 1889, opened Wellington’s first public art gallery in 1907</LI> <LI>Sir Harold Beauchamp, <EM>Reminiscences and Recollections</EM>, ed. Guy H. Scholefield, Thomas Avery & Sons, New Plymouth: 1937, p 181. Chapter XII is entitled ‘Art in Wellington’</LI> <LI>Mansfield died in France from tuberculosis on 9 January 1923</LI> <LI>Letter to the Hon William Downie Stewart, 6 February 1923, quoted in Sir Harold Beauchamp, <EM>Reminiscences and Recollections</EM>, p182</LI> <LI>The property was leased until May 1927, so Beauchamp decided that the rents should accrue until that time, when the property would be sold. The capital from the combined rent and sale would then be invested until it reached £10,000 (later raised to £15,000), at which point it would be entrusted to the Board of Science and Art (then charged with the establishment of the gallery), specifically for the purchase of pictures. The Fitzherbert Terrace property was subsequently sold to the Railway Department for a cadet’s hostel for £6250 (the equivalent of $890,551 today)</LI> <LI>Sir Harold Beauchamp Deed of Trust, 28 February 1923. The Harold Beauchamp Trust was established in 1933 to administer the original Deed</LI> <LI>Sir Harold quotes this phrase from <EM>The Dominion</EM> in <EM>Reminiscences and Recollections</EM>, p 189</LI> <LI>Ibid, pp 186-187. The next quotation is also from this source</LI> <LI>William McAloon, ‘Introduction’, in <EM>Art at Te Papa</EM>, ed. William McAloon, Te Papa Press, Wellington: 2009, p 9</LI> </OL> <P>&nbsp;</FONT size=2></P> <P>&nbsp;</P>

Richard Killeen, Interpretation, 1979, acrylic laquer aluminium,
Purchased 1979 with Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand funds and Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
Full object info is available on

Blomfield, William, 1866-1938. Photograph of a cartoon drawing depicting Harold Beauchamp by W Blomfield.

Blomfield, William, 1866-1938. Photograph of a cartoon drawing depicting Harold Beauchamp by W Blomfield. ,
Ref: 1/4-016205-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt. nz/records/22781273

Unknown, The Beauchamp family, circa 1896

Unknown, The Beauchamp family, circa 1896 ,
Ref: 1/2-044572-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Bank of New Zealand officials, including Harold Beauchamp. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives.

Bank of New Zealand officials, including Harold Beauchamp. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives. ,
Ref: 1/1-014628-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt. nz/records/22909915

47 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington

47 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington ,
Ref: 1/2-002583-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Sir Matthew A. Smith, Dahlias in a green bowl, 1938-40, oil on canvas,
Purchased 1954 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
Full object info is available on


Andre Lhote, Mirmande landscape (Paysage Mirmande), 1925, oil on canvas,
Purchased 1975 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
© Andre Lhote/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016
Full object info is available on


Colin McCahon, Ahipara, 1970, oil on unstretched canvas,
Purchased 1975 with Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand funds and Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
© Courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust
Full object info is available on


Anne Noble, Hiruharama (Jerusalem). From the portfolio: The Wanganui - 12 Panoramas, 1982, black and white photograph, gelatin silver print,
Purchased 1984 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
Full object info is available on


Ad Reinhardt, Untitled #5. From the portfolio: 10 Screenprints, 1966, screenprint,
Purchased 2015 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds.
© Ad Reinhardt/ARS. Licensed by Viscopy, 2016
Full object info is available on


Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen. From: The Apocalpyse., 1497-1498, woodcut,
Purchased 1971 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds
Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Full object info is available on