I recently discovered that my great great aunt, Vera Cummings, was a New Zealand painter of some note. Born in Thames (a town at the southwestern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand’s North Island) in 1891, she painted portraits of Maori people of the Auckland area. She attended the Elam school of Fine Arts in Auckland, and later became a student of
C F Goldie, who was a famous painter of portraits of Maori people.
The people in our family don’t have a lot of information about Vera, however, my mother tells me that she was a spinster, who, along with her sister, cared for their mother in her later years. She is said to have complained about the necessity to produce “pot-boilers” in order to support herself and her mother. In spite of the pressure she must have felt to paint this kind of portrait, she was still able to produce works of a very high standard.
My mother and uncle recently visited the Auckland gallery, where they were able to view Vera Cummings’ painting, Portrait of a Maori Woman. Above is a snapshot of them with the painting. You can see an image of the painting here.
Maori portraits of the kind painted by Vera Cummings, and her tutor, Charles Goldie, have enjoyed popularity and are considered an important part of New Zealand cultural history. If you wish to find out more about this style of painting, and its cultural significance and associated controversy, try the following links: