Section 12: August 1890-February 1891
August 17th, 1890 [Sunday]. A daily record of all our struggles, hopes and disappointments for the last eight months would be only such a weary & endless repetition that I have given up the attempt to recall them. First my book has been such an anxiety from the unaccountable delay in publishing it. Last month when we expected them all only two numbers of the Flowers came out. Beautifully done & the cover satisfactory.
A few months ago two Frenchmen came to Nelson with a dancing bear. A splendid animal not two years old, quite an infant its master said, although it was much taller than the man when it stood upon its hind legs. It was a dull buff colour. I think it was a young grizzly. The poor bear was very clever, went through exercises, attitudes & danced. The man sang when the bear danced & the bear seemed to enjoy it. The men were French. I shall never forget the sight of this huge animal standing up, shouldering arms with a stick.
One afternoon we were invited by the Bishop to go to Bishopdale with the Sketching & Camera Club to sketch the bear. The Bishop had the two men & the bear there for a couple of hours. We all made some rapid sketches several, for of course the bear would not stay still for more than a minute or two at a time. Frances has made hers into three most charming little pictures.
Two months ago my dear old friend Mrs Curtis died.
Ellen has now been an invalid for seven weeks, unable to take her afternoon teaching, so that I have been very hard worked & quite unable to do all the painting I wanted. If I could only give up the school, it brings in so little & takes all the best part of the day.
We are now having our second Art Exhibition in the Shelbourne St Schoolroom. It is better than last year. Our new pictures are better painted and we have so many very rare plants. Mr James Dall of Collingwood sent me a magnificent seed panicle of a mountain cabbage tree, he also sent me a sprig of lovely yellow rata which he had just discovered.
Nearly two hundred persons visited the Ex. the first two days, we sold a good many small things. Yesterday was pouring with rain all day & only half a dozen came so we shall have it open tomorrow, Monday. We had to put all the forms back ready for Sunday School & shall have to put them away again tomorrow. I think I have sprained my wrist.
We had plenty of help in carrying over & putting up the pictures. Four gentlemen & several boys worked hard.
The Editors have been most kind & praised our work very much.
Monday 18th. About seventy persons visited the Ex. during the day & evening. Mr Kempthorne and Mr Kingsley advised me to take the whole lot over to Wellington and have an Ex. there. The difficulty was the expense.
Mr Kempthorne said he would write to Baker Brothers Auctioneers, who had a room they often let. Many persons wanted me to have a small Art Union for the screens, but I would not. If I have one it must not be for the screens only.
Monday evening we brought home some of the things, the next day at twelve several Bishop’s School boys brought back the rest, & we got all the forms etc. back into their places.
We have determined to have an Art Union, fifty pounds’ worth. Screens, pictures, panels & table-tops. My idea is to commence it here then have it during the Ex. in Wellington, two hundred tickets at five shillings each.
Thursday broke up school. Three weeks & three days’ holidays. Mr Kempthorne wrote to Messrs Baker about the room, received an answer.
Thursday 21st [August]. They use the room every Monday but would let it for the remainder of the week for two pounds.
Friday. Went to ask Mr Wix’s advice about writing to the Solicitor General for permission to have an Art Union & also about writing to Lady Onslow. He very kindly said that he would himself write about the Art Union.
All of us painting every spare minute to finish up pictures & get fresh ones ready to take the place of those sold. Had a reply from Mrs Lee to say she would be very pleased to have me to stay with her during my Ex.
Monday Evening [25 August]. Went to a party given by the Bishop & Mrs Suter to all the members belonging to Christ Church Cathedral. The party, which they called a Concordia, was held at the Bishop’s School as being more central & better adapted for such a gathering than Bishopdale.
Great trouble had been taken to decorate the room with pictures, flowers, mirrors & photos. As host & hostess the Bishop & Mrs Suter are admirable. There was talking, music, singing, an amusing address from the Bishop, & then refreshments, handed round by a number of gentlemen.
The next evening the congregation of All Saints’ Church were entertained in a similar manner and on Thursday evening there was a private exhibition of the pictures done since the commencement of the B.S.C. Each member was to invite three friends, F. & I went but poor Ellen could not go out at night. It was pleasanter than Monday as there were not so many people, refreshments were provided the same as Monday.
I think we ought to be very much obliged to the Bishop & Mrs Suter for besides all the trouble it must have been a great expense to entertain five or six hundred people.
Friday afternoon Mrs Suter came & took Ellen to see the pictures before they were taken down.
To return to Tuesday, Ellen & I were all the morning writing letters & doing up newspapers for Wellington. We posted them all never dreaming of what would happen the next day. We have been hearing enough about strikes, never supposing that such a thing would happen in N.Z., but when the Union S.S. Company’s sailors & officers were ordered to strike by the Union, it fell like a declaration of war, everyone is more or less affected by it. It upsets my plans altogether. We must still go on getting ready for when the strikes are over, but when will that be?
We are all in great grief for dear Mabel Gully who died yesterday.
August 30th [Saturday]. I have just taken up two wreaths, one from myself & one from Ellen.
Sept 1st [Monday]. It was most sad to see Mabel’s funeral pass our house, first the hearse then several carriages with friends & relatives, then her school fellows walking two & two. — ‘Alas! for love of this were all & nought beyond the grave.’
How thankful we are to have had our little Ex. over before the Strikes commenced, and to have been able to pay most of our household bills so that our credit is good for some months, & we have been able to make a little provisions by getting in some coal, wood & flour against the hard times coming, if the strikes continue long. And what are they striking for, can half a dozen of them explain? All New Zealand is in a state of siege, & no great store of provisions in any town for the simple reason that there was no occasion when each day brought the steamers with supplies. But now when all the sailors have struck, & all the miners, it is like a sudden earthquake. Everything is more or less upset.
When the Tongariro arrives with my books I suppose we shall not be able to get them or sell them when we do.
Monday. Mr Wix received an answer, the following letter from the Colonial Secretary.
Colonial Secretary’s Office
Wellington, New Zealand
August 27th, 1890
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of August 26th applying on behalf of the Misses Harris of Nelson for permission to dispose of Paintings of Flowers & Ferns etc. by Art Union.
In reply I am directed by the Colonial Secretary to inform you that he hereby authorises the Misses Harris to dispose of the paintings referred to by raffle or chance.
I have the honour to be
Your most obedient servant
G. S. Cooper
A. McKellar Wix, Esq.
Nov 30th [Sunday]. On Saturday Nov 22nd Frances & I went to an At Home at Bishopdale. Ellen is at Motueka so she could not go. We drove out in a cab with Mrs Rogers & Miss Kempthorne. It was a lovely day, a great many persons were there. A year since the last Garden Party, how much had happened since then, how much had been done & how much had fallen short of what might have been done. Many times during the week I thought of the events which had taken place during the last twelve months. My four Exhibitions alone mark the year in our lives, & among our friends some have begun their career and some have finished their work on earth. My father’s retirement from teaching was first spoken about last Nov. I wondered more than once if any event would mark this annual gathering.
After a pleasant greeting from the Bishop and Mrs Suter, we strolled about the garden & down to the Tennis Lawn, talking to one friend and another, then we went in for some refreshments after which we found it was time to go, we said goodbye to Mrs Suter but did not see the Bishop. I walked home with Lily Campbell — had a long talk about the Taylors.
I cannot tell why or think why but when we got home I had a feeling that it was the dullest party I had ever been to at Bishopdale yet everything was the same as usual so the fault must have been in myself.
Next day, Sunday. Among the notices given out in church was the postponement of a service on account of the sudden illness of the Bishop. I did not hear the notice but on Monday we heard that His Lordship had been taken ill after we left on Saturday. We supposed it to be a severe cold, then we heard that it was very serious, then a gentleman told me that about seven o’clock on Saturday evening the Bishop was conducting the service in the Chapel when he suddenly ceased reading & exclaimed, ‘I cannot see.’ He was conducted to the house & at once went to bed, Dr Hudson was sent for & powerful remedies were applied, they feared it was paralysis of the brain. Oh! what a fearful thing to happen to one who has been so good to us all, too good, for he must have overworked himself. What widespread sorrow this will cause.
The Evening Mail in announcing His Lordship’s sudden illness says he is suffering from congestion of the brain & that at the least it would be three months before he could be well again, but the general idea seems to be that he will never be the same man again. I pray they may be mistaken.
It is now a week since & the last two days there has been an improvement. It will all depend upon whether it is congestion or paralysis.
And now I must go back nearly two months and give an account of my Wellington Ex. Had it been more successful perhaps I should not have left it so long unrecorded. The Strikes had subsided but were not over, the Session was over, but as all my pictures were packed up & as many of the pictures were lent, I felt obliged to go or give it up altogether. My books arrived the morning of the day I was to leave, Mr J. sent me 21 sets to try & sell.
Left Nelson Tuesday, Oct 7th at 9 p.m. in the Penguin with five heavy cases of pictures etc. Paid two pounds five shillings return ticket. After a very smooth passage we got to Wellington at 6 a.m. It was a lovely morning so set off at once to walk to Mrs Lee’s while a man with a little handcart took my personal luggage for which I paid three shillings.
There was no one up at the Lees’. However Bob soon came out and opened the door, & Fanny slipped on her dressing gown & came down to welcome me. Mr Lee was away & Fanny did not expect me until the afternoon. After breakfast & a good wash Phil & I went to the Steamer. I had telegraphed to Mr Baker, I found he had been & gone, said he would come again. I was just wondering what I had better do when a gentleman stepped upon the gangway to come on board, we looked at each other & it at once flashed on both our minds that we had found the person we were looking for.
I found my cases were landed, Mr Baker had got an express to take them to his auction rooms. He was anxious to know when I wished to have the Ex. as he wanted to have the room repapered. I went with him to his place, saw the room, which appeared to be well adapted to my purpose. He showed me the paper, a delicate plain tint of salmon pink which would show off my pictures well. After, a long talk with Mr B. about advertisements etc. In the afternoon went again to Messrs Bakers to make arrangements, then went with Mrs Lee to see Lady Atkinson. In the evening wrote to Lady Onslow.
Thursday [9 October]. Stayed in all day until five, then called to see Mrs Percy Smith. After tea went with Mrs Lee to see Mr & Mrs Luckie.
Friday. Went to see the room in the morning. Mr H. Baker took me to see the Press Editor, also the Evening Post Editor, & put in adts. Invited Press Editor to inspect pictures at 3 p.m. Monday, Post Ed. in the morning. Dined at the Luckies’. Mr Luckie went with me to the Times Office. In the afternoon went with Mrs Luckie to call on Mrs Chantry Harris.
Saturday. Went to the room to unpack. Mr Lee came home, he bought a set of my books. Ina & Bob came to help me. Arranging pictures all day. Received a note from Lady Onslow in which she regretted that she was too unwell to see me but hoped the Ex. would be a success.
Cards and invitation to dinner on Monday for Mrs Lee & myself from Mrs Judge Richmond.
Sunday [12 October]. Rested all day. Went to church in the evening.
[Wednesday] 15th Oct.
[Emily Harris to Frances and Ellen Harris]
Dear F. & E.
I am sitting here all alone in my glory, no one come yet. I opened yesterday, only a very few came. I believe people hardly know. The Editor of the Times did not come as he promised & so it was like making me a day late.
Lily & I had to go & see the Editor, he had forgotten all about it but promised to send a reporter on Tuesday morning.
I had such trouble to get done at all on Tuesday and just as I was going to lunch & dress a reporter came, so I could not get back until half past two which did not matter as no one had arrived. A little after three Mrs Luckie came, Mrs Lee and Ina came with me, then Mrs Judge Richmond & Mrs Fell, Miss Rochfort & Lucy & then Sir Harry & Lady Atkinson. They were all much pleased, & then a few more people came straggling in.
The room looked better than the Shelbourne St School room. Papa’s picture shows out well & the others look well also, but still only a few people came, they seem taken up with other things. I have scarcely sold anything to speak of for this place. My two Lincrusta panels & one of your yellow rata ones to Sir H. Atkinson & my red & yellow rata to Alfred Atkinson. Ellen’s bird’s nest, 6 sets of books & 7 Art Union tickets. Mrs Lee & Mrs Luckie have been so kind in staying with me at the room.
I am so tired that I wish I had not come. The only comfort is that most likely I shall pay expenses. The fact is I ought to have been here three months to work the thing up, or else advertise largely, which was too expensive.
I am so grieved to hear of the death of our kind friends, Mr Dodson and Mrs Boor. How we shall miss them. I had such a strong presentment that something sad would happen when I left.
I am keeping the Ex. open today & tomorrow in hopes of getting a little more. Ethel Smith came yesterday, they had received the books. Mr Percy Smith has gone away again and was not able to come. Mr Kirk has been unwell. Mrs Kirk came yesterday.
[Friday, October] 17th. I do not think I shall do more than pay expenses, but at the same time all who have come have been surprised and charmed so it may do good in the end by making the public acquainted with what we have to show. The three leading papers have been very complimentary, I am told that people have been so often taken in by worthless Exs. that they cannot imagine mine to be really good. Then Wirth’s circus & the elections keep people away. They go by thousands to the circus!
[Emily Harris to Frances Harris]
I just send you a line or two to say how I am getting on, or rather not getting on for now the Ex. is over it will only just pay expenses. I had it open two extra days but it poured with rain so hardly anyone came and those who came did not buy. It has been nothing but a worry all the time, the only consolation is that people who came were very much delighted so it may do good some time. Tell Papa his large picture never looked so well before, the light & position suited it, the things altogether looked well.
Some people have been most kind, Sir Harry & Lady Atkinson, Baker Bros., the Lees, the Kirks, & the Luckies.
I have had such trouble about the packing, the rooms are closed at night or perhaps I could have got some gentlemen to help me.
The weather has been horrible lately, I think we shall leave at the end of next week. If all the things were packed & I were not so tired I might be in better spirits for we have all gained great credit.
I had tea yesterday with Mr & Mrs Kirk. Mr Kirk showed me a lot of lovely pressed flowers from Campbell Island & lent me some to copy, he is coming tomorrow to show me over the Botanical Gardens.
It is no use going into details when I hope to be home again soon.
With love to all
Your Aff. Sister
As I mentioned in the last letter I might have been in better spirits if I had not been so dreadfully tired, so much walking and standing about made my legs ache so, I could scarcely stand sometimes. People were most kind & if I could have stayed longer no doubt I should have enjoyed myself very much, I had to refuse invitations.
I went again to the Kirks’, spent nearly all day sketching rare flowers in Mr Kirk’s study & from his garden. I went several times to the Atkinsons’, dined & had tea there. One day Lady Atkinson took me for a drive on the Karori Road, the country looked lovely & Wellington did not seem such a narrow strip after seeing the miles of country at the back of it.
On my return to Nelson I was thankful to find all well at home. During my absence my books had been delivered to the Subscribers & I heard at the Post Office that a number had been sent to England as Christmas presents. During the next two months Mr Jackson received a good many papers with favourable notices, but the only place where they sold quickly was Melbourne & at ten and six instead of seven and six.
A few weeks after my return Ellen, who was far from well, went to Motueka to stay with Mrs Gibbs. During three weeks’ stay there she got so wonderfully better that some persons could hardly believe she was the same person, but alas! coming back in the steamer a high wind rose & she got a severe cold. It brought back her cough & nothing we or the Dr. could do seemed of any use.
Dr Cressey wanted her to go away again for a long change, but where to send her was the puzzle. At last Frances hit upon a plan. She had a little money, saved for emergencies, & she thought that if she went to New Plymouth & took a small cottage it could be furnished with what she could take & what Mary could lend her, then she could go there with Ellen for a few months, without a very great expense. In that way she could look after Ellen, also she thought she might be able to give lessons in drawing & painting. So after I had written several letters to Mary the plan was matured & the cottage found. Then we told Ellen who, being an invalid, had a good cry & did not want to go & could not believe it could be managed. However, after a time she got reconciled to the idea & set to work to help on the preparations. And what a work it was, the preparing & packing up such a heap of things for use, comfort & ornament. At last they left in the Wanaka.
And now I will let Ellen & Mary’s letters speak for themselves & begin with letter the first.
[Ellen Harris to Emily Harris]
Devon St /91/ Feb 28
I suppose I had better begin when I went below, the Stewardess came and asked me my name just as I had undone my dress & said a gentleman wanted to see me. It was Mr Harris who just tore down at the last minute.
We had a very smooth trip at least, there was plenty of motion but the night was brilliant. There were four others in the cabin. Miss Campbell just below me, she was ill but F. was dreadful, I never heard anyone worse. I was not sick once, but we never got in till 12. During the night I did not feel so bad but in the morning I felt very ill & we had to dress while the vessel was going as they said the train would not wait. Tell Miss Cressey the Stewardess never did a single thing for us – F. being so ill.
[loose newspaper cutting]
A very interesting exhibition of paintings was opened yesterday at Baker Brothers’ auction mart. The works shown are by Miss Harris, Miss Ellen and Francis Harris, and Mr Edwin Harris, of Nelson. The majority of the subjects are careful studies, in oil, of some of the rarest and most beautiful foliage and flowers of this Colony, there being almost a complete collection of rare alpine plants and flowers, many of them painted direct from their natural growth. There are also several views of scenery, one specially noticeable being a grand view of Mount Egmont from the north, taken some quarter of a century ago. Another is a capital illustration of troops being landed at New Plymouth in the troublesome days. There are also some excellent specimens of painting upon velvet, satin, leather, and glass. The exhibition, taken as a whole, shows remarkable artistic talents, and gives a splendid insight into the really handsome flora of New Zealand. The exhibition will be open to-day and to-morrow.
[Sunday] August 17th 1890
Emily resumes her diary as the family’s second Nelson exhibition is underway at the Shelbourne St Schoolroom Tuesday 14-16 August and Monday 18 August.
A few months ago two Frenchmen came to Nelson with a dancing bear
Bishop Suter referred to his invitation to the members of the Bishopdale Sketching club and the Camera club in his address to BSC members at the first annual general meeting of the club in August 1890:
‘There also ought to be outdoor drawing meetings, such an example as the afternoon with the Bear, an opportunity of which many of the members availed themselves.’
The reference to the bear stemmed from a sketching afternoon held at Bishopdale when the subject was a small brown bear on a chain (presumably borrowed from a travelling road show). One of these sketches is still held in the Sketching Club’s early portfolio which is stored in the Library at the Provincial Museum. (Neale 2-3)
Two months ago my dear old friend Mrs Curtis died
Eliza Curtis died 1 June 1890:
Early on Sunday morning, Mrs George Curtis, a lady well known and much respected in Taranaki, died in the presence of her husband and most of the members of her family, at the age of 74 years. Mrs Curtis came out with her husband and family in the ship Pekin, which arrived at New Plymouth about the middle of January, 1850. Mr Curtis, J.P., took up land at Omata, where he and his family lived in a raupo whare, built for them by the Maoris, for about eight years. Mrs Curtis was thus brought face to face with the vicissitudes of colonial life in the early days of the settlement, and although she had been used to a comfortable home in England — her father being the owner of a valuable estate in Cambridgeshire — she was in no way depressed, but battled with the difficulties and dangers the early settlers were subjected to uncomplainingly. Her husband, Mr Curtis, was one of the largest importers in New Plymouth at the time, and previous to the war breaking out in 1860 had erected a large and substantially built house at Omata. On hostilities with the natives commencing Mrs Curtis and her family removed to New Plymouth, but her husband remained at Omata, where from the stockade he saw his home destroyed, it having been set on fire by the rebel natives. Mrs Curtis with her children then went to Nelson, where she stayed for twelve months. On peace with the natives being proclaimed, Mr Curtis re-built his house at Omata, and until recently he and his family have lived there. About eight years ago Mrs Curtis in walking down a hill slipped and falling heavily was injured in such a way as to induce paralysis, from which she has ever since been a great sufferer. About two years ago Mr Curtis and his wife came to live in town, and, although Mrs Curtis was still an invalid, she was not confined to her bed till about a week since, when she caught a severe cold, which no doubt was the chief cause of her death. It is a very delicate matter to intrude upon the home life of a lady, but it is admitted by those who have had the privilege of anything approaching to an intimate acquaintance with the late Mrs Curtis that, of what a wife, a mother, and a colonist should be, she has furnished us with a brilliant example. The Messrs Curtis Brothers of Stratford and Inglewood are her sons, and, as prosperous settlers, are well known ; and she has another son who is Police Magistrate in Queensland. She also leaves two daughters, Mrs Carthew and Mrs T. Mace, both residents of Taranaki. The funeral of the deceased lady will take place on Wednesday next, at 2 p.m. (Taranaki Herald 2 June 1890: 2)
We are now having our second Art Exhibition in the Shelbourne St Schoolroom
The Evening Mail previewed the exhibition in some detail. The writer was probably editor Francis Blundell, who noted several of Emily’s studies from her visit to Mt Taranaki:
On Thursday next is to be opened in the Shelbourne-street schoolroom an exhibition of very choice paintings, principally of the flowers and foliage of New Zealand trees and shrubs, by Miss Harris, who during last summer paid a visit to Taranaki where for five days she camped at the foot of Mount Egmont, whose sides she explored with a view to obtaining wild flowers to serve as studies for her studio. That she was very fortunate in obtaining specimens and highly successful in producing faithful imitations of them will be admitted by all who visit her exhibition during the latter part of this week. Having had an opportunity of seeing some of the paintings we will just mention two or three which struck us as being the most beautiful. First of all there is the Mountain Primula, which grows plentifully under the bushes and in sheltered rocky crevices. To this full justice has been done, and leaves and foliage are most faithfully depicted. Then there is the yellow Ranunculus, with unusually fine leaves. A red Nainai from Mokau, and also a white one from the Dun Mountain, are sure to attract a deal of attention, and will be greatly admired. The “Ti Ti,” or as the settlers call it, ‘Elastic or India Rubber Tree’ is a very charming specimen. This tree is at its greatest beauty when from 6 to 12 feet high when the leaves are from 5 to 6 feet long and about 6 inches broad, and very rigid. The mid rib and stripes are of a rich orange colour, and the surface blueish green. The fibre of this leaf was especially valued by the Maoris for making fishing and mooring lines, as it withstands the action of salt water much better than flax. Another painting is that of the very beautiful flower and handsome foliage of the ‘Tainui.’ This is a small tree about 20 feet high only to be found near the mouth of the Mokau river where it was discovered by Sir James Hector in 1878. It is of special interest on account of the legend connected with it. The natives state that the spot where it was found was the site of the camp selected by their ancestors on first landing in New Zealand, and that it must have grown from the rollers or skids and the green boughs that were laid as a flooring in their great canoe the Tainui. We can only make brief mention of the many other beautiful flowers and foliage that Miss Harris has so skilfully painted. Among them are the Bush Ake-Ake, the Tawhai, a forest tree, Alpine flowers, the Astelia Solandri, a lovely yellow drooping flower with very graceful foliage, all from Mount Egmont. There is also a very rare flower, namely, a yellow Rata, recently discovered at Collingwood by Mr Dall. Then there are studies in bronze and gold, and a beautiful Primula from Mount Egmont painted on lincrusta, a kind, of leather ; a bowl of Chrysanthemums and a basket of the same flowers. To these must be added a set of three small pictures entitled ‘The Innocents Abroad,’ which was suggested by the appearance of the bear which was recently to be seen in the streets, but which, we hear, has since been shot at Westport in consequence of the death of its owner); ‘Three Choristers,’ and a very cleverly painted picture of ‘Puss.’ On the whole the exhibition promises to be one full of attractiveness to the botanist and the lover of art, and to all who take delight in well and faithfully executed pictures of some of Nature’s choicest productions. (Nelson Evening Mail 12 Aug 1890: 2)
Another detailed review, probably written by editor Thomas Bannehr, appeared in the Colonist:
An exhibition of paintings, chiefly of New Zealand Flowers, &c, was opened in the Shelbourne street Schoolroom yesterday afternoon, and during the day the exceedingly interesting collection was viewed by very many. Miss Harris showed a great number of paintings of alpine and other rare flowers, as well as many of a more common description, though none the less beautiful perhaps, and the interest which attached to the pictures as paintings was greatly enhanced by the opportunity afforded of examining such admirable representations of flowers only to be seen in their native soil after so stiff a climb that they are practically without the reach of most people. One of the most admired of the paintings stood on an easel upon the small stage, and represented the seed panicle and seed of the Ti Toi, commonly called the mountain cabbage tree. The tree itself is rare, and as it grows in localities seldom visited when the seed is ripe, the picture presents a new study, and the beautiful blue of the mass of seeds peeping from their covering makes an effective picture, and the study has been well treated. Other pictures of the mountain cabbage and of the nai nai in blossom also claimed much attention. A painted screen of three panels, which stands near the former, claims admiration. With a few effective sprays of lycopodium and of ferns, the native clematis, convolvulus, and lacewood flowers are effectively reproduced. A study in sepia of tetoki [sic] berries and convolvulus blossoms should not be overlooked. Several table tops, on which floral subjects are painted, attract the notice of visitors, as also do a number of panels. The paintings of scarlet and yellow rata are very effective, and some groups of flowers admirably arranged and faithfully represented are certain not to be overlooked. Among these flowers the Chatham Island forget-me-not is prominent. Two studies, ‘the Voice of Morning,’ and the ‘Silver Eye’s Nest’ have been shown before. Amongst the more rare subjects treated by Miss Harris may be mentioned primula from Mount Egmont, the Maori sacred lily rengarenga, a selmesia [sic], the blanket-like appearance of the under leaves being skilfully reproduced, the Mount Cook lily, the senecio hectori, the tainui blossom (obtained at Mokau), rananculus [sic] from Mount Egmont, and some orchids. A mantle [sic] drape worked in silk, with flowers of the red kowhai served to show how admirably adapted are our New Zealand flowers for the purposes of such decorative work. Miss Ellen Harris exhibited a number of paintings, amongst which may be specially noticed those entitled ‘Puss Puss,’ ‘The Three Chorister Boys,’ some chrysanthemums, and painted panels with rata and mistletoe. Amongst the exhibits by Miss Frances Harris three entitled ‘Refreshment by the way,’ ‘Innocents abroad,’ and ‘His very best,’ claimed most notice perhaps. Space does not admit of reference being made here to more than a few of the paintings, but the exhibition as a whole is a very interesting one, and should be visited by all who have any love for the beautiful. From an educational point of view, these pictures ought to be studied by the children, in whom there should exist a love for the flowers of their native land. The exhibition will be open this afternoon and evening, and during the same hours tomorrow. (Colonist 15 Aug 1890: 3)
Both notices point out the painting of a red neinei from mokau. There is a large format watercolour by Emily Harris in the collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library showing the neinei in blossom at Mokau in January 1890. Curatorial notes describe it as follows:
A red-flowering dracophyllum traversii, or grass-tree. Two branches shown. Dracophyllum latifolium is the North Island Neinei or grass tree. The South Island species is Dracophyllum traversii. The tree grows to about 10 metres. Recto – beneath image: title and date in ink – : Quantity: 1 watercolour(s). Physical Description: Watercolour, 447 x 617 mm (sight). (ATL. C-024-013)
Mr James Dall of Collingwood sent me a magnificent seed panicle of a mountain cabbage tree
James Dall was a botanical collector based in Collingwood. A biography from the Natural History Museum in London notes his wide interests:
Plant and animal collector based at Collingwood, New Zealand. Born in York, England, James Dall began a career at sea before settling in Nelson, New Zealand. At Nelson he started a horticultural business and collected plants for sale. He supplied Wellington Botanic Garden in the 1870s and visited Sydney annually to sell to private buyers. He was particularly renowned for his ferns and tree ferns and in 1880 received awards for his display at the Melbourne International Exhibition. Dall lived at Collingwood for many years, acquiring land at Pakawau in 1892, halfway between Collingwood and Rockville. Here he had a small nursery and a few cows. Carex dallii Kirk and Celmisia dallii Buchanan commemorate him. The small tree Pittosporum dallii Cheeseman is named after him, too. He discovered the latter in 1905 in the rugged back country near Collingwood, north-west Nelson. He also gathered many molluscs, birds, fish, mammals and insects.
The Colonist review admired Emily’s studies of the seed panicle of the mountain cabbage tree (Cordiline indivisa), noting in addition: ‘Other pictures of the mountain cabbage and of the nai nai in blossom also claimed much attention.’ It would seem that James Dall also supplied Emily with a specimen in blossom, since Francis Blundell’s review of the family’s first Nelson exhibition notes: ‘One of the most striking is a specimen of the mountain cabbage tree in blossom, which was brought to her from Collingwood. It is a beautiful picture, and moreover represents a rarity, as the plant is very seldom found in flower, miners who have resided in the district for twenty years never having seen it before.’ (Nelson Evening Mail 25 Nov 1889: 2)
There is a large format watercolour by Emily Harris in the collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library showing the mountain cabbage tree in blossom. Curatorial notes observe that Emily’s titling of the plant is probably incorrect:
New Zealand cabbage tree in flower. Probably shows the broad-leafed Cordyline indivisa, not the narrower-leafed cordylne australis as the artist has named it. The flower is shown hanging from the centre of the cluster of leaves. Other Titles – Cordyline indivisa Recto – bottom right: title underlined in ink – : Quantity: 1 watercolour(s). Physical Description: Watercolour, 720 x 530 mm. (ATL. C-024-005)
Jane Clendon offers an evaluation of the painting in her survey of Emily Harris in her PhD thesis ‘The Art of the Untrained Artist in Colonial New Zealand’ (1992):
Harris often succeeded in creating botanical paintings that are not just descriptive, but also aesthetically pleasing, and that suggest (or are expressive of) her feelings about them. […] Occasionally the compositions recall the more simplified forms and arrangements of Margaret Preston’s woodcuts of Australian flora from about 1925. Harris’ Cordyline australis (ATL C24/5) comprises the central, heavy head of flower framed by a fan of the thick, blade shaped leaves, which burst upward and out of the confines of the page, with only a few smaller ones completely seen. The thick curved leaf shapes contrast strongly with the delicacy of the massed small flowers, in form as well as colour, the former olive and yellow green, the latter golden and white. […] As an artist, Harris’ achievement, and her contribution to New Zealand visual culture, are much greater than has previously been suggested (324-26).
Mr Kempthorne said he would write to Baker Brothers Auctioneers
Baker Brothers was an established family firm in central Wellington. A Cyclopedia listing under ‘Other Accountants, Agents &c’ in the Wellington Provincial District for 1897 describes the company as follows:
Baker Bros. (C. A. Baker, J. E. Baker, H. D. Baker, W. W. Baker, and T. N. Baker), Auctioneers, Estate and Insurance Agents, 43 Lambton Quay. Bankers, National Bank of New Zealand. Established 1877. (Cyclopedia of NZ)
We have determined to have an Art Union, fifty pounds’ worth
Arthur McKeller Wix (1846-1918) was born in Surrey, England. He married Emma Dodson in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1872. He died in Surrey. Wix was an active member of several local clubs, including the Nelson Club, the Cricket Club, The Bowling Club and the Jockey Club. In 1885 he organised a major Art Union for St Mary’s Industrial Schools, Nelson, in aid of a fund for erecting a Home at Stoke For Destitute Boys. Wix probably advised Emily to write to Lady Onslow requesting her patronage of the exhibition. See note below.
Monday Evening [25 August]. Went to a party given by the Bishop & Mrs Suter
Both the Bishop’s church events were reported:
The Bishop’s Hospitality. — On Monday evening last the members of the Christchurch congregation were entertained by his Lordship the Bishop and Mrs Suter whilst last evening those who attend All Saints Church were invited to partake of the hospitality of the Bishop and Mrs Suter. On each occasion those present spent a most enjoyable evening. In a short address of welcome, his Lordship expressed the pleasure with which he and Mrs Sutor received their guests, and said his great desire was that they might all meet socially, and evince that brotherly love which should characterise members of the Church. (Colonist 27 Aug 1890: 3)
a private exhibition of pictures done since the commencement of the B. S. C.
Bishop Suter’s personal interest in art led him to establish the Bishopdale Sketching Club in August 1889. June E Neale’s The History of the Nelson Suter Art Society describes the club’s early days:
Bishop Suter was a man of tremendous energy and vision and the Nelson Art Society which bears his name has reason to be justifiably proud that he became its Founder. […] A collector of works of art, he was an enthusiastic artist and a portfolio bought by the Art Society in 1913 contains some of his sketches and watercolours. With this background it was perhaps inevitable that he should draw together kindred spirits and form Nelson’s first sketching club. The Bishopdale Sketching Club was formed in August 1889 with Bishop Suter as its first President and critic. Miss N Branfill was the Hon. Secretary from August to November when Miss Nina Jones took over the secretaryship – a position she was to hold until 1925 — a span of 35 years.
The club had fourteen members who each month sent in a sketch, the subject of which had been chosen by the President. The works were then criticized by Bishop Suter by means of small notes which were attached to each unnamed sketch. These, with a longer general criticism and explanatory notes, were placed in a portfolio and circulated within the Club. ‘The Portfolio’ thus became the focal point of members’ interest. Foundation members of the Club included Colonel Benjamin Branfill, his daughter Miss N Branfill, Mr J H Nicholson and Miss Nina Jones – all of whom were practicing artists (1-2).
We posted them all never dreaming of what would happen the next day
Wednesday 27 August 1890 saw the beginning of the maritime strike:
New Zealand’s first big nationwide strike began as a matter of principle in support of Australian unions. In August 1890 John Millar, the head of the Maritime Council, which united the seamen’s, wharf labourers’, miners’ and railwaymen’s unions, asked the Union Steam Ship Company to stop trading with Australia while a union dispute was raging there. The company refused, and employed non-union labour in Sydney Harbour to unload its ships. Its New Zealand crews then walked off the job in protest. Soon other seamen, watersiders and miners joined the protest action. About 8,000 workers were on strike at ports around New Zealand. The strike caused enormous disruption to the country’s trade and transport networks. However, there was remarkably little violence, even when hundreds of farm labourers left their jobs to carry out the strikers’ work. In Dunedin, striking wharfies even served as special constables (temporary volunteer police) to help maintain order. After almost three months the strike was called off, in a total defeat for the seamen and the unions allied with them. (Te Ara)
Emily’s statement that she and Ellen ‘were all the morning writing letters & doing up newspapers for Wellington’ is borne out by the copy of a letter of 26 Aug 1890 in the Cranstone Papers (photocopy ATL. MS-Papers-0489.). The addressee is unidentified but the content of the letter makes it clear that Emily is writing to botanist Thomas Kirk whom she visited after her Wellington exhibition in October:
Nelson, August 26th 1890. Nile St East.
I send you by this mail two newspapers with an account of an exhibition of pictures held in Nelson August 14th. The exhibition consisted chiefly of N.Z. Plants and flowers, of which I have now a very large collection from all parts of N.Z., some exceedingly rare. The Exhibition was so much admired and so great a success that several gentlemen advised me to take the paintings to Wellington and hold one there. I am now making arrangements to do so and will probably be in Wellington the first week in September when I shall be very glad of any help and advice you can give me, particularly in setting right some of the names of plants which I am sure are not quite correct. If I can I should like to give you a private view.
Yours sincerely, Emily C. Harris.
Address Nelson: Miss Harris, Nile St. East.
Wellington: Miss Harris, C/o Mrs Robert Lee, Tinakori Road.
We are all in great grief for dear Mabel Gully who died yesterday
Mabel Vincent Gully (5 Sept 1876-30 Aug 1890):
Gully- August 30, at the residence of her mother, Trafalgar street South, Mabel Vincent, only daughter of Mrs Lewis Gully. (Colonist 1 Sept 1890: 3)
‘Alas! for love of this were all & nought beyond the grave.’
Emily quotes the final lines of a poem by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835):
The Graves of a Household
THEY grew in beauty, side by side,
They fill’d one home with glee;–
Their graves are sever’d, far and wide,
By mount, and stream, and sea.
The same fond mother bent at night
O’er each fair sleeping brow;
She had each folded flower in sight,–
Where are those dreamers now?
One, midst the forests of the west,
By a dark stream is laid,–
The Indian knows his place of rest,
Far in the cedar shade.
The sea, the blue lone sea, hath one,
He lies where pearls lie deep;
He was the lov’d of all, yet none
O’er his low bed may weep.
One sleeps where southern vines are drest
Above the noble slain:
He wrapt his colours round his breast,
On a blood-red field of Spain.
And one–o’er her the myrtle showers
Its leaves, by soft winds fann’d;
She faded midst Italian flowers,–
The last of that bright band.
And parted thus they rest, who play’d
Beneath the same green tree;
Whose voices mingled as they pray’d
Around one parent knee!
They that with smiles lit up the hall,
And cheer’d with song the hearth,–
Alas! for love, if thou wert all,
And nought beyond, oh earth!
When the Tongariro arrives with my books
The RMS Tongariro, departing from London, left Plymouth 26 July 1890 and was due in Wellington 7 September after transiting Tenerife, Capetown and Hobart. She arrived in Wellington 9 September, then in Lyttelton 16 September, departing for Rio and London 2 October. Emily’s books were forwarded from Wellington and reached HD Jackson in Nelson 7 October.
[Sunday] Nov. 30th.
The diary entries cease after 1 September, resuming again in late November 1890 when Emily receives news of Bishop Andrew Suter’s collapse from a cerebral haemorrhage. She then reprises the events of October that took her to Wellington for the forth family art exhibition of 1889-90.
I walked home with Lily Campbell — had a long talk about the Taylors
Perhaps Lily Christina Grace Campbell (1872-1963), born in New Zealand to Mr and Mrs Duncan Campbell, early residents of Invercargill. Lily attended Timaru High School, then matriculated in Glasgow in 1887, earning a scholarship for further study. She married John MacDonald, who worked for the Lands Department, in 1905 and they had a son and daughter, Duncan and Sheila MacDonald. The MacDonalds lived mostly in Invercargill and Dunedin. Lily Campbell’s presence in Nelson in 1890, and the conversation she has with Emily about Dr and Mrs J Taylor, indicates that she has returned from Britain where she seems to have met the peripatetic Taylors.
The Evening Mail in announcing His Lordship’s sudden illness
In 1889 Suter questioned the validity of Octavius Hadfield’s election as primate before H. J. C. Harper had actually resigned. Himself a strong contender for the position, Suter felt deeply hurt when his integrity was questioned. Some contemporaries linked the cerebral haemorrhage which he suffered in late 1890 to the controversy, although overwork in the diocese was also blamed. Continuing ill health led to his resignation in late 1891. He died in Nelson on 29 March 1895. (DNZB)
My books arrived the morning of the day I was to leave
Tuesday 7 Oct 1890. An editorial review appeared next day and was reprinted 29 Oct.
We have received from the publisher, Mr H. D. Jackson, of Nelson, a series of three books illustrating New Zealand flowers, ferns, and berries respectively. The original drawings were executed by Miss E. C. Harris of this city, whose artistic productions have frequently called forth admiration, and the excellent work of that lady has been admirably reproduced by means of lithography, the task having been entrusted to an English house. In the book of New Zealand flowers the illustrations include two varieties of ranunculus, one being known as the Mount Cook lily, the rata, the kowhaingutukaka, the convolvulus (panake), the kowhai, the clematis, the manuka, the mountain primula, the senecio hectori, the hoihere (lace bark), and the poroporo. The book of ferns contains illustrations of some very beautiful and rare ferns, while the book of New Zealand berries is exceedingly interesting. Its illustrations embrace the fruit of the puriri, the kowharawhara, the kawakawa, the karaka, the suple jack, the kiekie, the titoki, the blue berry, the kohekohe, the tawa, and the miro. The illustrations are accompanied by botanical and native names as well as a general description and locality where specimens are found. The books are really works of art entitled to a place in any home, while the drawings not only bear testimony to the ability and taste possessed by Miss Harris, but are also interesting as specimens of what can be produced by lithography. We understand that the series is issued at seven and sixpence, and there should be a very large demand for the books which would make suitable Christmas presents to friends at a distance. (Colonist 8 Oct 1890: 3)
There was no one up at the Lees’
Robert and Fanny Lee and their family lived in Tinakori Rd, Thorndon. Robert was an Inspector of Schools for the Wellington region, Fanny would have been nearing her tenth pregnancy, a son (Thorold Derwent) was born in 1891. The older children who help Emily with preparations for the exhibition are Lilian (Lily) (1871-1959), Ina Florence (b. 1873), Robert Hugh (Bob) (1875-1944) and Philip Grantham (Phil) (b. 1879). The Lees’ support of Emily and the exhibition extends the longstanding friendship between the Harris and Gully families.
I found my cases were landed, Mr Baker had got an express to take them to his auction rooms
Baker Brothers, 43 Lambton Quay. It is not possible to determine which of the brothers Emily is dealing with, presumably the senior partner because she also mentions going with Mr H Baker to the offices of the Evening Press and the Evening Post. Her visit with Mrs Lee to Lady Atkinson at Premier House would have taken her along Tinakori Road. Her note to Lady Onslow, following up an earlier letter in August, would have been sent to Government House on Molesworth St, adjacent to Parliament House. The letter probably included an invitation to the opening 14 October and thanks for patronage of the exhibition:
UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF THE COUNTESS OF ONSLOW
EXHIBITION OF PICTURES, NEW ZEALAND WILD FLOWERS, and other PAINTINGS, will be held at Baker Bros. auction mart, to-morrow, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 5 and 7 to 10p.m. Admission – 1s. (Evening Press 13 Oct 1890: 3)
After tea went with Mrs Lee to see Mr & Mrs Luckie
David Mitchell Luckie (1827-1909) and his wife Fanny Clara (1838-1925) emigrated from Scotland, arriving in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1863. David Luckie was for many years editor of the Colonist before moving to Auckland and later to Wellington. The Lees and the Luckies form an important part of Emily’s Wellington support.
There are many people in Wellington and the Dominion generally who will hear with sincere regret of the death of Mrs. Luckie, widow of the late Mr. D. M. Luckie, for many years Commissioner of Government Life Insurance, and formerly a well-known journalist of the Dominion. Mr. and Mrs. Luckie arrived in New Zealand by the ship Electra, landing in Nelson, where Mr. Luckie took over the editorship and part ownership of the Nelson paper, ‘The Colonist.’ After leaving Nelson he became successively editor of the ‘Daily Southern Cross,’ and the ‘New Zealand Herald’ at Auckland, and later of the ‘Evening Post’ of this city. Mrs. Luckie, who had a very gentle and charming personality, has lived in Wellington for the past 48 years, making many friends who will miss her greatly. (Evening Post 20 Apr 1925: 13).
Mr H. Baker took me to see the Press Editor
The Evening Press ran advertisements for the exhibition 10-18 Oct 1890 and an editorial review also appeared:
This afternoon a very beautiful display of paintings of many lovely New Zealand flowers, berries and birds by Miss Harris, of Nelson, is being exhibited at Messrs Baker Bros.’ rooms on Lambton Quay. Many Alpine plants of great variety, as well as a great variety of the flora familiar to all who have been at any time in the New Zealand bush, are depicted with wonderful faithfulness to nature. As educating the people as to the beauties that are native to this country, yet so little known, in the world of flowers and plants, such an exhibition must be very valuable, outside of the pleasure it always gives to look upon the results of artistic skill, and we hope therefore to see advantage taken of the opportunity to gratify both the educational and the artistic instinct. (Evening Press 14 Oct 1890: 3)
In the afternoon went with Mrs Luckie to call on Mrs Chantry Harris
Elizabeth (Bessie) Bradford (c.1839-1906) married John Chantry Harris (c. 1831-1895) in Sydney, Australia, in 1865. Chantry Harris worked for the Otago Daily Times and Southland Times before buying the New Zealand Times in 1880:
At a meeting of the Directors of the NZ Times Company held yesterday, arrangements for the transfer of that paper to Chantry Harris were finally completed. He entered into possession today. The publication of the New Zealander will consequently be discontinued after to-day. The final issue appeared this morning. For the future the New Zealander will be incorporated with the NZ Times, which will be published under the same name by new proprietors. (Wairarapa Daily Times 18 Feb 1880: 2)
Received a note from Lady Onslow
Florence Onslow was pregnant with the vice-regal couple’s fourth child:
Lady Onslow was at Government House on 13 November 1890 to give birth to their second son. As the first vice-regal child born in New Zealand, and in the colony’s 50th jubilee year, it was variously suggested that he be given a distinctively New Zealand name, and that Queen Victoria might honour him and the colony as a godmother. After some negotiation both were arranged and the infant was named Victor Alexander Herbert Huia – the last after the native bird which symbolised nobility. Local sensitivities and the demands of protocol were satisfied by a christening ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral Church, Thorndon, Wellington, with the mayor, C. J. Johnston, as a godfather ‘representing the people of New Zealand’, and some months later by a hui at Otaki to present Huia Onslow (as he was always known) to Ngati Huia who had in fact suggested his name. (DNZB)
Mrs Judge Richmond & Mrs Fell, Miss Rochfort & Lucy & then Sir Harry & Lady Atkinson
Emily’s disappointment over the low numbers attending her exhibition is offset by the list of friends and notables who come to the opening. Emily Richmond, married to Judge Christopher William Richmond, is accompanied by her daughter Margaret (1857–1933), who married Wellington doctor Walter Fell in 1886. Miss Rochfort is likely to be Alice Susan Rochfort, who was part of the camping trip to Happy Valley at Christmas New Year 1888-89, possibly accompanied by one of her younger sisters.
My two Lincrusta panels & one of your yellow rata ones to Sir H. Atkinson
Lincrusta was a leather wallcovering with a deeply embossed surface suitable for applying painted decoration. It was launched in 1877 and was used in a host of applications from royal homes to railway carriages. Alfred Charles’ Atkinson (1863-1941) was the youngest son of Harry Atkinson and his first wife Amelia Jane Skinner.
I am so grieved to hear of the death of our kind friends, Mr Dodson and Mrs Boor
Emily Mary Rivers Boor died 11 Oct 1890; Joseph Reid Dodson died the following day:
DEATH OF OLD SETTLERS AT NELSON. (THE PRESS ASSOCIATION.)
Nelson, October 13. — Mr- Joseph Reid Dodson, head of the firm of Messrs Dodson and Son, brewers, an old and respected citizen, died on Sunday, aged 78 years. He was the first Mayor of Nelson, and was re-elected to the position several successive years.
Mrs Boor, the wife of Dr. Leonard Boor, Medical Superintendent of the Hospital and Asylum, died on Saturday after three days’ illness. (Taranaki Herald 14 Oct 1890: 2)
Ethel Smith came yesterday
Ethel Crompton Smith (1865-1951) was the daughter of Stephenson Percy and Mary Ann Smith. The Smiths also lived in Tinakori Rd, Wellington.
The three leading papers have been very complimentary
The Evening Press, the NZ Times and the Evening Post. Editorial reviews appeared Tuesday 14 October (Press, Post) and Wednesday 15 October (Times). None were as detailed as the Nelson reviews, but each was warm in its response to viewing the exhibition:
Anyone who is in any way interested in art, or is either a botanist or an enthusiastic on the subject of New Zealand flora, will have ample opportunity during the next few days of making the acquaintance of a very choice collection of paintings, chiefly of the rarest and most beautiful flowers and foliage of New Zealand trees and shrubs. The paintings we refer to were placed on exhibition at- Messrs. Baker Bros,’ Auction Rooms in Lambton-quay, this afternoon, by Miss Harris, of Nelson, whose work they for the most part represent, and who for many years has been an exhibitor in the several art exhibitions of the colony. New Zealand flora and foliage she has, however, apparently made a special study of, and several faithful and valuable reproductions of extreme rareties are to be seen amongst the collection. For instance, in the course of a sojourn in Taranaki, Mount Egmont was scaled, and as a result some fine specimens of beautiful Alpine flowers and shrubs were obtained, which have since been transferred to canvas. Misses Ellen and Frances and Mr. Edwin Harris are also contributors to the collection, which comprises studies on screens, panels, table-tops, wall-hangings, &c. The whole exhibition, as we have before said, is one of especial interest, and will no doubt attract the attention which it deserves. It will be open each day from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m. (Evening Post 14 Oct 1890: 3)
I had tea yesterday with Mr & Mrs Kirk
See letter of 26 Aug 1890 quoted above. Emily thanks ‘the late Professor Kirk’ first in her list of acknowledgements in the preface to ’New Zealand Mountain Flora,’ indicating that the compilation postdates Kirk’s death in 1898. Sarah Jane Mattocks, a silk marker, married Thomas Kirk (1828-1898) in Coventry, Warwickshire, in 1850. The Kirks came to New Zealand with their children in 1863 and settled in Auckland, where botany quickly became Thomas Kirk’s dominant interest. In addition to his writing and extensive botanical expeditions, Kirk held several teaching engagements, lecturing at Auckland College and Grammar School and Wellington College in the early to mid 1870s, and Lincoln School of Agriculture, Canterbury in the early to mid 1880s. He also served in a number of positions in different societies at different times throughout his life including: secretary and treasurer of the Auckland Acclimatisation Society, fellow of the Linnean Society of London, president of the Wellington Philosophical Society and governor of the New Zealand Institute. Later in the 1880s Thomas Kirk was engaged by the government, and appointed chief conservator of forests in order to draw up legislation on the use of forests (DNZB). Kirk’s most significant publication, Forest flora of New Zealand (1889), is available online at the National Library.
Emily’s sketching at Thomas Kirk’s house and garden produced a number of paintings of flora from the Subantarctic Islands, which Kirk had visited earlier in 1890. Emily’s works include a large panel in oil now at Puke Ariki, painted in 1906 for the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch:
Emily Cumming Harris, ‘Flowers from the Antarctic Islands of New Zealand.’ 1906. Oil on board, 1037 x 617mm. Donor Mary Weyergang, Sept 1925. Puke Ariki. A66.051.
Ellen, who was far from well, went to Motueka to stay with Mrs Gibbs
Fanny Elizabeth Raine (1859-1925) was born in Australia and married Richard Wain Gibbs (1860-1945) in Nelson in June 1884. Gibbs was appointed to a variety of high-level positions during his long career at the Bank of New Zealand, working in Nelson in the 1870s-1880s and in Wellington later through the 1890s into the 1920s.
There will be very widespread regret at the death of Mrs. Fanny Elizabeth Gibbs, wife of Mr. R. W. Gibbs, which occurred, at her residence, Karori, yesterday morning. The late Mrs. Gibbs who was a Miss Rainey, of Nelson, was connected for-a long time with the Plunket Society in both Dunedin and Wellington, as well as being a leading spirit in initiating and getting into being Queen Margaret Hostel, and this fine brick building will remain as a lasting monument to the work of Mrs. Gibbs and her co-workers at that time. On her return to Wellington, in spite of a busy life and indifferent health, Mrs. Gibbs resumed her old work on the hostel council, and to the end she was a most valued and practical member of the council, advocating strongly the extension of the work to meet the demands of the many students who still have to be refused accommodation. Many mothers and their student daughters are deeply indebted to Mrs, Gibbs, though some, perhaps, hardly know her name. Into her work no thought of personal recognition entered. The Students’ Hostel Council know, however, there is now a gap in their ranks that will be. very hard to fill. To members she has left an honoured memory that will act as a stimulus to further endeavour for many years to come. She will be greatly missed by a large circle of friends and relatives. (Evening Post 9 Jan 1925: 9)
She had a little money, saved for emergencies
Frances and Ellen plan to stay several months in New Plymouth, close to sisters Mary Weyergang and Kate Moore and their children. The affection of the aunts for their nieces and nephews is evident in a letter of 10 Jan 1892 written by Ellen as preparations for the Nelson Jubilee Fine Arts Exhibition are underway (Harris Family Scrap Book. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190):
Thanks for letter which we were very pleased to receive. We are very busy seeing about the exhibition, we have taken one of the rinks which is a very large place. We have had lots of lovely things promised already & when it is all done it can’t fail to look very attractive but there is a tremendous lot of work. One gentleman came this week & offered his services & I think he will arrange the part we have set out for afternoon teas, which we intend having so that there will be plenty for our girl friends to do. All the Moores have promised to help & are helping now. Bertie has been cutting out large letters to put on flags. I am so glad Ruth is coming & I wish Fannie could come too – tell her to write to Harry at once & ask him to pay her passage. I’m sure he might – & with her nice blue serge & white dresses she will always look nice. Ruth must wear her warm dress & bring her light ones as some days are quite cold. She will have a good deal of the exhibition but some of the girls will take her about if we can’t. I wish you could all three be here & Gretchen too, what a time we could have. Will you get the recipe for Auntie cakes from Bel? Frances wants to make some, we shall have to make a lot of cakes. I have just made a pretty muslin for the opening, heliotrope. We mean to have a grand opening if we can get it. We shall have to pay a man to take tickets & sleep there at night; if your father came we could have him, let us know if there is any chance of his coming. The excursion tickets are issued from 28 January to 4th February & last a fortnight. I expect the steamer would leave on 26th. I am a good deal better lately but my cough is still very bad & so is F’s. It is a pity that she will have to leave directly the Jubilee is over as she will have to be all ready packed up – Dr Cressy is expected this week he didn’t come by the last boat as the lawyers wouldn’t finish. Emily is quite well again and so is Papa. Our fern trees have grown so much they are above the veranda, I thought they would look small after N.P. but they don’t. Such lots of people wear hats made of net or tulle or muslin, even buttercloth looks light and pretty – the frames are made of wire. Mrs Pridham sent us such pretty cards mine is something quite ne[?]& now I must finish, with love to all your affectionate Aunt Ellen.
Let someone write next mail & tell us what your father will do.
A report by the organising committee of the Fine Arts Exhibition noted the following resolution: ‘That a special vote of thanks be accorded to Mr Raine for his very valuable services and untiring zeal in the cause of the Exhibition, the success of which being largely due to that gentleman’s zealous labours. (Accompanying the resolution, the Misses Harris asked Mr Raine to accept a very handsome painting of New Zealand wild flowers, painted by Miss Harris.)’ (Colonist 27 Feb 1892: 3)
A very interesting exhibition of paintings was opened yesterday at Baker Brothers’ auction mart
A loose clipping reviewing Emily’s Wellington exhibition, NZ Times 15 Oct 1890: 2. The clipping is the third of three Wellington reviews Emily received, a day later than the others because the Times editor did not come as promised Monday 13 October.
Section 1: August 1885
Section 2: September-November 1885
Section 3: January-March 1886
Section 4: March-July 1886
Section 5: August-November 1886
Section 6: August-December 1888
Section 7: January 1889
Section 8: February-August 1889
Section 9: September-October 1889
Section 10: November-December 1889
Section 11: January-February 1890
Section 12: August 1890-February 1891: You Are Here