This famous painting was bought by the Auckland Art Gallery for £200 in 1898. It was painted by Charles Goldie and his former teacher Louis Steele, who, like Goldie, had studied painting in Paris, and came to Auckland about 1886. The painting was modelled on Théodore Géricault’s 'The raft of the Medusa', which had been exhibited in Paris in 1819, three years after the Medusa, a French naval vessel, was wrecked off the coast of Senegal. Fifteen of the 147 people on board survived on a raft for 13 days, and the painting portrayed the moment when they saw a rescue ship. The figures on the raft are suffering from extreme starvation and despair, having indulged in cannibalism on their journey. The painting became an icon of romanticism, and Goldie had made a copy of it in Paris in 1897. The composition of Goldie and Steele's painting replicates Géricault’s original, even down to the positioning of individual figures. Also copied is the impression of utter despair and starvation, which later commentators have criticised as wholly inaccurate and condescending to the Polynesian navigators who made deliberate voyages of exploration. This painting, which contributed to the myth of the great fleet in New Zealand, was the last work the two painters did together. Louis Steele began to resent the public attention lavished on his star pupil, and their association ended.
Using this item
Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tāmaki
Oil painting by Charles Goldie and Louis J. Steele, 1898
Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.