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Charles Blomfield (1848-1926)
Charles Blomfield (1848-1926)

The White Terrace, Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand

Charles Blomfield (1848-1926)
The White Terrace, Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand
signed 'C BLOMFIELD' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 x 25in. (38 x 63.2cm.)

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Helena Ingham
Helena Ingham

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Lot Essay

Some of the pictures I shall have to take standing in hot water.
Charles Blomfield at Rotomahana, 1885

'The weird grandeur of the Hot Lake district and the exquisite beauty of the terraces are fast becoming known as "the sight of the world", and anything tending to bring the unique scenery of our island home under the notice of people at home and on the Continent will help to bring about this desirable result ... There is no doubt Mr Blomfield in a quiet way is doing a great deal to advertise New Zealand as a favourite resort for the tourist and the traveller. His pictures are intensely realistic and true in form and colour, and to people at home give an accurate idea of the Lake scenery. These pictures are already well distributed, orders having been received and executed from tourists hailing from London, France, Germany, America, Australia, and other places.' (New Zealand Herald, 21 Sept. 1885)

Blomfield first visited and sketched at the Pink and White Terraces at Rotomahana in the summer of 1875-6. He returned to paint there early in 1883 and exhibited Rotomahana subjects at the Society of Arts in April 1883. He spent eight weeks in the summer of 1884 camped at the terraces with his daughter working on a series of twelve canvases. He exhibited seven of these works painted on the spot at the Society of Arts in Auckland and had fourteen Rotomahana subjects included in London's Indian and Colonial Exhibition in 1886, shown at the moment when Mt Tarewara erupted, destroying the terraces. The subject had proved popular from the outset and Blomfield's 'Picture Sales' record over eighty Rotomahana subjects sold before the eruption of the site in 1886, and two hundred in the decade before 1892, the majority duplicates of works painted on the spot. For his work on the Terraces, which made his name, see M. Williams, Charles Blomfield, His Life and Times, Auckland 1979, pp.66-85, and R. Blackley, 'Blomfield's Terraces', The Turnbull Library Record, XX, Number 1, May 1987, pp.9-16.

Access to the geothermal terraces on New Zealand's North Island was policed by Maori of Te Wairoa and Blomfield had to get their permission to camp and paint at the site without an escort. The Maori acted as guides and brought tourists and victims of rheumatism to the lake, and Blomfield has included a Maori and European figure here, negotiating the hot thermal waters. The artist had similarly to negotiate the waters of the White Terrace to take the view: 'I am getting on very well but slowly. I have finished four pictures as well as a number of small sketches. I have not finished with the Pink Terrace yet, but shall do so perhaps by the middle of next week, then I shall move the tent and things over to the White Terrace and camp there. I expect I shall be longer over that side as there are so many fine views to be taken there. I have been sketching on the White Terrace twice. It is very awkward when the hot water is running over. I don't quite know how I shall manage. Some of the pictures I shall have to take standing in hot water.' (Charles Blomfield in a letter to his wife from Lake Rotomahana, 1885)

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