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Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook

SPERRY, E. Kate (Eleanor Kate) (Mrs Gilbert Mair) 1862–1893

page 222

SPERRY, E. Kate (Eleanor Kate) (Mrs Gilbert Mair) 1862–1893

Born New Zealand, daughter of John Sperry, Commissioner of Taxes. In early 1880s went to Europe, studied Rome under Guiseppe Ferrari: won a gold medal, the Prix de Rome, for a study of an Italian goatherd. Returned to New Zealand about 1885 and in 1888 married the famous Captain Gilbert Mair, a hero of the Maori land wars, who later worked as a government interpreter. She died in Blenheim. When she was in Italy, the then Dowager Queen of Italy visited Ferrari's studio, and, hearing that Kate Sperry wanted to see Pompeii, gave her an introduction to her brother the Duke di Abruzzi, who had a place of authority in the excavations then taking place. At the end of her visit he gave her presents which included two large amphorae. Some time after her death Captain Mair gave these to the Auckland Museum on behalf of their daughter, later the painter K. Airini Vane. E. Kate Sperry obviously was one of those painters who kept sending back paintings to art societies while she was abroad. Exhibited OAS 1886–87 (in the 1887 show one of her paintings of an Italian subject was priced at £100.0.0 while the highest priced painting by the leading Canterbury painter John Gibb was priced at £31.10.0); with ASA 1887–88; NZ Industrial and Mining Ex Wtn 1885; Centennial Ex, Melbourne 1888–89; NZ and South Seas Ex Dunedin 1889–90 as “E. Kate Mair”. Listed as Wellington artist 1887–88 Wise's. She painted both oils and watercolours and made drawings, and was said to have shown “power” as a sculptor: made a terra cotta bust of her father shortly after his death. Died after a “long, lingering illness”. Represented: NAG, Turnbull.