Petrus van der Velden's 1895 painting of Alexander Bickerton was a portrait of a friend. Van der Velden and Bickerton were both bohemian intellectuals with similar opinions on art, religion and politics. Bickerton had come out to Canterbury College in 1874 as the foundation professor of chemistry. He began to give public lectures on science and to promote his theories of partial impact, which attempted to explain the origins of new stars. He espoused socialism, attacked the jingoism associated with the South African War, argued for companionate marriage (involving equal roles for men and women) and established a cooperative 'Federative Home' in the New Brighton sandhills. This range of interests and public roles was initially made possible by Bickerton's university position, but eventually (in 1902) even the university lost its tolerance and he was fired.
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Christchurch Art Gallery - Te Puna o Waiwhetu
Oil on canvas by Petrus van der Velden
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