The Blind Woman of Taupō by artist Charles Frederick Goldie on display at the opening night of the Taupō Museum’s Goldie and Ryan exhibit. Photo / Provided

Residents and visitors alike have the chance to see an exhibit steeped in New Zealand art history at the Taupō Museum.

The Blind Woman of Taupō by legendary New Zealand artist Charles Frederick Goldie is now on display at Te Aroha o Rongoheikume, the museum’s wharenui (meeting hall), thanks to a loan from an anonymous benefactor.

The incredible and absorbing painting, made in 1934, was loaned to the Taupō Museum for five years.

He will be seated next to portraits of Ngāti Tūwharetoa Te Werahiko (Haukino) and Rutene Te Uamairangi Rahui chiefs of Ōpepe, painted in 1908 by notable artist and Taupō identity Thomas Ryan, in an exhibit titled Goldie and Ryan.

At the unveiling on Thursday, August 11, the new exhibit was blessed and officially opened to the public.

Although it is unknown who Taupō’s Blind Woman is, museum staff believe it is an alluring aspect of displaying her to the public. Will anyone recognize her? Was she even from Taupō?

Speaking at the event, Steve Giles, events and venues manager for Taupō District Council, said “there aren’t many better working days than this”.

“Several years ago I had the privilege of traveling to France and walking to the Louvre, standing in a queue as we walked past the Mona Lisa. I compare that a bit to today. We are privileged as a team to be part of the guardianship or kaitiakitanga of precious Goldie taonga,” he said.

Goldie’s work focused on aged rangatira (chiefs) with moko (tattoo), preserving the so-called “noble relics of a noble race”.

In 1901 he visited Rotorua where his old friend and artist Thomas Ryan operated ferry services. It was through Ryan’s wife, Mary Wharepapa, and her Māori connections that Goldie was accepted by Māori, and she helped persuade several models Te Arawa and Ngāti TÅ«wharetoa to sit for him.

He spent the autumn of 1907 in the Taupō area painting elderly, tattooed Maori warriors. On the door of his studio, he posted a notice, “Gone to Taupō”.

The existence of the main Ryan Tūwharetoa paintings was not known to relatives until the portraits were shown on Te Karere, a Māori television show. The paintings were to be auctioned off at the Auckland International Art Centre. Eraita Ann Clarke and Hinetemoa Walker of Taupō, granddaughters of Rutene Rahui, recognized him because he has a distinctive spiral moko.

Confirming their discovery of the paintings, the auction house agreed to wait until they could find the money to buy them. Eraita and Hinetemoa approached the Ōpepe Farm Trust for help because Rutene and his older brothers, Wiremu and Kiriwera, were the original owners of Tauhara Block No. 4 in Ōpepe – a Māori kāinga (village) near Taupō.

There was additional special significance to the trust in that Rutene, a revered tohunga, is buried in ÅŒpepe. The ÅŒpepe Farm Trust immediately purchased the portraits.

In 1995, the paintings were welcomed to the district by the administrators of ÅŒpepe and the descendants of Te Werahiko and Rutene. They were kind enough to entrust these precious taonga to the museum.

At the unveiling, Mr Giles said credit should go to everyone involved in bringing together Goldie’s works with Ryan’s at the Taupō Museum.

“From a museum perspective, we’re hoping to help locate Goldie in our neighborhood and the team has found Goldie and Ryan’s name. They’re trying to focus on that relationship that the two artists had.

“We owe a great debt of thanks to the donors. Thank you for sharing your donation with us and the community. We thank the Reid whānau for supporting the relocation of artwork to the wharenui.

“Finally, to the museum team. Thank you for your mahi, your continued enthusiasm, your dedication, your aroha for the arts, and your commitment to educating our community.”

For curatorial reasons, only one of Ryan’s paintings will be exhibited at a time. They will be exchanged every six months.

Goldie and Ryan is now open to the public. The Taupō Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free for residents and tamariki, $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors and students. Visit the Taupo Museum Facebook page or for more information.

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