Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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John Elder Moultray (1865-1922) History Painter or Historical Journalist?

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:29 authored by Park, Marilyn Edwina

This thesis was undertaken to investigate J. Elder Moultray‘s history paintings, his broader artistic oeuvre and journalistic output, and to place him in the context of nineteenth-century New Zealand art, journalism and the history painting genre generally. It is also intended to fill a lack of previous art-historical scholarship surrounding Moultray and his history paintings. Moultray‘s own diaries and published articles, as well as newspaper reports about him, provide a biographical sketch of his life and his own views on art history. A discussion of the development of the history painting genre, a detailed analysis of his history paintings and comments on his paintings from critics, both during his lifetime and after, leads to a number of conclusions. These suggest that Moultray‘s diminished reputation as an artist has resulted from a number of factors, including changing fashions in artistic styles, poor documentation in the referencing of his works, and a changing political climate which has desired to leave behind uncomfortable images of the New Zealand colonial wars. The latter is related to both his contemporary marginalisation and the deterioration of many of his paintings in the public domain. Unpicking the layers of Moultray‘s history paintings reveals their relevance to contemporary art-historical issues. In addition, Moultray‘s resistance to modernism and continuation of a nineteenth-century academic art practice into the twentieth century provides today‘s art historians with considerable insights. By exploring a body of Moultray‘s paintings, in tandem with his writings about art, the thesis reveals a significant contribution to New Zealand art history.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Art History

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Blackley, Roger