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Story: McIntyre, Raymond Francis

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McIntyre, Raymond Francis


Artist, art critic

This biography, written by Linda Tyler, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Raymond Francis McIntyre was born at Christchurch, New Zealand, on 5 February 1879. He was the son of Canadian-born George McIntyre, a surveyor, and his wife, Julia Sophia Margaret Smith, a magistrate's daughter from Tasmania. The musical and artistic McIntyre family lived in central Christchurch, and later in the suburb of New Brighton. George McIntyre served on various local bodies and was mayor of New Brighton borough in 1901–2.

Raymond was educated at Warwick House School until the age of 15, when he went to the Canterbury College School of Art as an evening student. There he continued studying, with intermittent breaks, under Alfred Walsh and Robert Herdman-Smith until 1908. By this stage he was teaching still-life and figure drawing to junior classes at the school. He won a prize for the best set of drawings from the full figure in 1899, and the silver medal for a colour study of a head painted from life in 1900. Progressive local painters formed a sketch club about 1905, and McIntyre was quick to join. Sydney Thompson, who had recently returned from four years' studying and working in Europe, was also a member and the group met regularly at his studio in Cambridge Terrace.

From around 1906 until 1908 McIntyre shared a studio in Cathedral Square with fellow artist Leonard Booth, who described him as 'an enthusiastic desciple [ sic ] of Whistler, [who] runs music as a successful side-line. In the intervals of dabbling masterpieces on canvas, he sobs out his soul on the sorrowful 'cello.'

McIntyre was able to observe the fresh techniques of impressionism in 1906–7 when 20 works by New English Art Club painters were shown at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch. He had been exhibiting landscapes and portraits regularly with the Canterbury Society of Arts since 1899 and by 1908 his loosely brushed paintings blended influences from Petrus van der Velden with English impressionism. Local critics were not always impressed. He was labelled 'a decorator' and, according to Leonard Booth, was scorned because he was an impressionist. This lack of critical and local artistic success seems to have convinced McIntyre that he should pursue his artistic career in Britain.

Arriving in London in February 1909, McIntyre began a period of intensive study and painting. He was taught by William Nicholson, George Lambert and Walter Sickert, among others. He also became socially active in London's artistic, literary, musical and theatrical circles. He exhibited frequently over the next decade, especially at the Goupil Gallery Salon, the leading international gallery in London at the time. His work diversified in content to include street scenes, a subject McIntyre shared with the Camden Town Group, though his techniques differed greatly from these artists. From late 1920 he also began to paint rivers and parks. He continued exhibiting at the Goupil Gallery Salon and finally had a painting accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1924. He ceased to exhibit his work after 1926 although he still painted for his own enjoyment.

McIntyre was also a writer, printmaker, photographer and theatre and music critic. In 1923 he began contributing art reviews to the London journal Architectural Review. Artists he singled out for praise included Ben Nicholson, Ferdinand Hodler, Erich Heckel and Paul Signac. He stopped writing for this prominent periodical in 1931.

McIntyre died in London on 24 September 1933, having never married. He had been baptised an Anglican, but along with his family had become involved with the Church of Christ, Scientist, soon after the first congregation was formed in New Zealand in 1907. Believing that disease could be healed by faith, he had not had a curvature of his spine treated and in 1933 refused an operation for a strangulated hernia. The resulting infection caused his death.

An expatriate artist, Raymond McIntyre attracted limited attention in New Zealand during his lifetime. Although his work was shown at the National Centennial Exhibition of New Zealand Art in 1940, it was not until several decades after his death that his achievements were fully recognised. Colin McCahon was a key figure in this process: in 1962 he helped organise an exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery, 'Six New Zealand expatriates', which included 12 of McIntyre's paintings. In 1984–85 the same gallery organised a retrospective of McIntyre's work.

Stylistic similarities can be found between McIntyre's fauvist works – such as 'Interior', painted around 1918 and held at the Auckland City Art Gallery – and the early works of Toss Woollaston, or of McCahon himself. However, this indicates a shared interest in European modernism rather than any direct influence. McIntyre's paintings featured twice on the cover of Art New Zealand during the 1970s, and indeed his work has more in common with the celebration of life seen in local neo-expressionist painting of that decade than with any produced in New Zealand before the Second World War.

How to cite this page:

Linda Tyler. 'McIntyre, Raymond Francis', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3m11/mcintyre-raymond-francis (accessed 28 February 2024)