Moko; or Maori Tattooing
Some Little-Known Work
Some Little-Known Work.
Some years ago he prepared illustrations for Maning's book “Old New Zealand,” and though these are still in England, and have not been made use of, it is satisfactory to know they were presented by the artist to Mr. R. D. M'Lean, of Hawkes Bay, who has them at his London residence, Cadogan-square, along with other examples of the artist's brush.
The only other written work relating to New Zealand that has been published was one entitled “Pounamu: Notes on New Zealand Greenstone.” This was issued in 1915, and is profusely illustrated with drawings and photos made and taken by the author. The work has not been placed on sale in this country, and it is doubtful if there are even half a dozen copies here. It is dedicated to Mrs. R. D. M'Lean, through whose interest, along with that of Mr. M'Lean's, the publication was undertaken, while elsewhere acknowledgement is made to Mr. Elsdon Best and the late Canon Stack for information supplied.
Taking his collection of Maori heads as models, with those he had seen in various museums in Europe, he made water, colour drawings, both full and side face, of the best of these, and only as late as 1918 offered a set of forty to the New Zealand Government for the modest sum of £20; and it is greatly to be regretted that again advantage was not taken of the opportunity to acquire them. The small recompense solicited by the gifted artist was quite out of proportion to the time, travel, and work involved in their production. From 1886 to 1894, and perhaps later, he contributed quite eighty drawings to the London Graphic, but they do not relate to New Zealand. One of them, a full-page illustration, and full of humour, represents the visit of a unit of Highland Regiment to Paris, and is entitled, “Should Mounted Highland Regiments Wear Kilts?” From 1864 to 1866 the Illustrated London News reproduced quite a number of his drawings relating to the Maori War, with accompanying letterpress furnished by the artist. The originals are still with that newspaper, which is not disposed to negotiate for their transfer elsewhere.
Following General Robley's retirement from the Army, his interest in it was continued in many ways, and for quite a period he acted as Range Officer at Wimbledon Rifle Range, besides acting in the same capacity at the annual championships between the Lords and Commons. Throughout the late war he particularly interested himself in New Zealand troops who happened to be in London, and while perhaps, through belonging to a past generation and unknown to this one, he did not make his identity known, many wounded New Zealand soldiers may recall having been spoken to by an elderly civilian possessing somewhat the cast of countenance and build of the late Lord Roberts, who interrogated them regarding their disablement, and presented them with a hand-painted postcard, generally characteristic of the Dominion's part in the war, with the request they should write on it the date and locality when and where they received their casualty.
In spite of his great age General Robley continues to enjoy fairly good health, and whenever circumstances permit keeps in close touch with the many Maori curios, weapons, etc., that from time to time change hands in the auction rooms, or are deposited in the curio shops of the great metropolis. It is somewhat strange he has never written an account of his New Zealand war experiences, but information recently to hand indicates that within the last few months he has applied himself to this, and before long the manuscript will be sent out to this country, where perhaps some day it may be placed in such form as to be available to all those interested.
That his hand has not lost its cunning as a painter of Maori scenes was demonstrated only so recently as August of last year, when he completed a fine painting, from a sketch furnished by the writer, of a large meeting of natives and settlers held at the Pa Whakairo. Te Aute, in 1863, presided over by Sir Donald M'Lean, and the native chiefs Porokuru, Te Moananui, and Te Hapuko, where the land question was under discussion, and incidentally one of Sir George Grey's famous flour mills was being presented to the natives.