GOLDIE, Charles Frederick, O.B.E.
A new biography of Goldie, Charles Frederick appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
C. F. Goldie was one of a family of eight, and the second son of David Goldie, a well-known Auckland timber merchant, a former Mayor of Auckland and a member of the House of Representatives for West Auckland. On the maternal side, C. F. Goldie was a grandson of the English artist Partington. Born in Auckland early in 1870, Goldie was educated at Auckland College and Grammar School, where he early showed artistic talent, filling many sketch books with pencil drawings, mostly of flowers and plants. These sketches already showed an eye for detail which was later to become such a strong feature of his work. When he left college he went into his father's business, studying art in his spare time at L. J. Steele's studio. In 1892 Goldie's father realised that his son had no interest in business and accordingly sent him to Paris to study at L'Académie Julian in the Rue du Dragon under the instruction of Bouguereau, Ferrier, Constant, and Doucet. He also studied anatomy at the Beaux Arts under Professor Duval. At Julian's Goldie made a special study of the antique and painting from life, in which he displayed considerable skill. In 1896 he won the Prix Julian in competition with 300 other students. He also received numerous other mentions, particularly in the yearly portrait competition held at Julian's. During the five and a half years he was in Paris he made a considerable number of copies from the old masters at the Louvre and the Luxembourg galleries and, when on vacation, visited many other famous galleries in Belgium, Holland, Italy, and England, often accompanied by his brother, Dr William Goldie, who also painted.
Goldie returned to Auckland in 1898 and shortly afterwards he collaborated with L. J. Steele in painting “The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand” which was exhibited in 1899 and is now in the possession of Auckland Art Gallery. Goldie set up his studio on the top floor of Hobson's Buildings, then next door to the Auckland Star office in Shortland Street. For a time he found things financially difficult, but augmented his income from painting by taking pupils. In 1901 he made the first of many sketching trips to the Rotorua district and brought back a portfolio full of Maori studies. Realising that the old Maori type was fast dying out, he decided to devote his main life's work to painting Maori portraits, particularly those of tattooed subjects. By 1904 his Maori work had earned him a reputation as the leading painter in this field. In 1906 his work was being criticised for its lack of variety, but Goldie ignored such comments and persisted in what he felt was a task of historical importance. At first he did not find it easy to get suitable sitters, for the old-time Maoris were suspicious of his intentions, but fortunately Goldie had influential friends, and through them he was able to visit the Maoris in their pas. Many of his Maori sitters also came to his studio. He had a great admiration for the Maoris and understood them. Few of them had any idea of time; they would either turn up in the small hours of the morning, or be very late for an appointment. Not infrequently they fell asleep while posing, so that many of his portraits show his subjects reclining. Among his favourite subjects he numbered Pautea Atama Paparangi, chieftain of the Rarawa tribe, Tumai Tawhiti, warrior chieftain of the Arawa tribe, and Te Aho, at one time a famous Maori canoe architect. Among the women subjects he liked best were Pipi Haere Huka and Ina Te Papataki of the Ngapuhi tribe.
Goldie's life as artist falls into two periods — between 1905 and 1916, and between 1928 and 1940, for the long hours he worked, often from 6 a.m. until dusk, and the exacting nature of his task, resulted in a nervous breakdown. He did very little painting between 1916 and 1928, while recuperating in Australia, but in his late fifties he was at work again. In 1920 he married Miss Olive Cooper, of Melbourne; there were no children. In 1935 he was awarded the O.B.E. Lord Bledisloe did much to encourage Goldie and at his suggestion three pictures were sent to the Royal Academy, London, in 1935; namely, “Atama Paparangi”, “Thoughts of a Tohunga”, and “Sleep 'Tis A Gentle Thing”. The same year Goldie sent paintings to the Paris Salon where he won the Prix Julian Medal. In 1937, by special invitation from the Sociét des Artists Franais, he sent two other portraits of tattooed chiefs, “Wharekauri Tahuna of Galatea”, and “Atama Paparangi of Hokianga”, which were accepted by the Paris Salon.
A shy and reserved man by nature, Goldie was in failing health from 1940 and on 12 July 1947 he died at his home in Upland Road, Remuera, Auckland, survived by his widow.
Goldie's paintings were widely sold, many being bought by tourists through his Auckland agent, John Leech. His works are in the possession of most of the art galleries of New Zealand, particularly Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Timaru, and Dunedin, and in the Auckland Museum, while he is represented also in many private collections in this country.
Goldie took all possible pains with his work. He made pencil sketches, took colour notes, and sometimes photographed his model from different angles before painting the finished picture in oils, his usual medium. He noted most carefully the light and shade, the colour and texture of the skin and the depth as well as the pigmentation of the tattooing on his subjects, recording most accurately each texture. He is particularly noted for the remarkable fidelity with which he painted hair and hands. His preoccupation with detail invites close inspection and yet does not disturb the sense of unity in the painting. While he left no notebooks describing his methods of preparation, a prepared canvas reveals that he first painted the canvas with Chinese white, leaving it for four years, then sandpapering the surface smooth before scumbling with a base of raw umber. He painted faithfully what he saw with a technical skill of a high order, and while he painted several portraits of prominent Auckland citizens and some religious compositions, the real importance of his work lies in his Maori studies, for they form an artistic and historic record of great value.
by Thomas Esplin, D.A.(EDIN.), Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Home Science, University of Otago.
(Although not highly rated by art critics, Goldie's Maori portraits have brought very high prices in recent years. In 1951, at an auction at Timaru, the Dunedin Art Gallery paid 800 guineas for ‘Memories’, a portrait of an old wahine. This figure was surpassed in September 1963 at an Auckland auction when ‘Te Aho Te Rangi Wharepu’ (29 in. × 24 in.) fetched 925. Ed.)
- The New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, Nov 1901
- New Zealand Herald, 12 Jul 1947 (Obit).