Image 'Where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed', 1882

TLF ID R4689

This is a watercolour by Alfred Sharpe that shows the house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, as seen from Motumaire Island in the Bay of Islands (far north of the North Island of New Zealand) in 1882. Steep exposed rocks, with a number of trees growing on them, dominate the foreground. The Treaty House is visible in the background, in a gap between the rocks. The words 'Where the treaty of Waitangi was signed' appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the painting, which measures 21.3 cm x 36.1 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset highlights the work of Alfred Sharpe (1836?-1908, baptised Alfred Sharp), an English immigrant who arrived in New Zealand in 1859 and, while working as an architectural draughtsman, became a renowned and accomplished watercolourist - his contribution to New Zealand and Australian landscape painting provides a valuable insight into colonial art of the 19th century.
  • It highlights the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand history - this important agreement was signed between some Mäori and representatives of the British Crown at Waitangi in February 1840; while the British regarded it as having given them sovereignty or control over New Zealand, Mäori considered it to be a power-sharing arrangement.
  • It highlights a distinctive style of painting that, while recognised in its own time, was dismissed by some critics as being 'painfully elaborate', 'harsh' and 'photographic' - Sharpe responded to the criticism in published letters that outlined his aesthetic credo; this credo revealed his keen awareness of posterity, belief in his work's importance, and passionate interest in the development of a local landscape tradition.
  • It is one example of the prolific output of Alfred Sharpe, who exhibited extensively from the 1870s to the 1890s, producing between 100 and 150 paintings throughout his career in New Zealand - his exhibitions included now-famous works, such as 'Sunset on the Puhoi River' (also known as 'Wenderholm'), that combined technical brilliance and landscape realism, and were much more than mere topographical paintings.
  • It highlights the work of a man who biographers have described as New Zealand's leading art theorist of the 19th century - Sharpe provided an unparalleled commentary on the procedures behind some of the period's most original landscape watercolours, in the form of essays that he submitted to the 'New Zealand Herald' in the early 1880s; these were published each week as 'Hints for landscape students in watercolour'.
  • It is part of the wider contribution Alfred Sharpe made to New Zealand society - Sharpe published a significant number of pseudonymous articles in Auckland newspapers, such as the 'New Zealand Herald', 'National Punch', the 'Observer' and 'Free Lance', under names such as 'Asmodeus', 'Censor' and 'Conservator'; in the articles, he addressed a host of wider issues such as arboriculture, acclimatisation of vermin, and political corruption.
  • It was painted by an artist who had a troubled life - Sharpe turned to writing as a creative outlet when he became profoundly deaf and had to cope with an alcoholic invalid wife; in January 1880 Sharpe was convicted and fined for assaulting a female servant; he was convicted again for abandoning his wife when he moved to Newcastle, New South Wales in 1887 (though he paid for her upkeep in an old people's refuge in Auckland until her death in May 1888).

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Alfred Sharpe
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Alfred Sharpe
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements