Charles F. Goldie 'A Midsummer's Day' Hori Pōkai

Linda Tyler
Posted on 4 March 2024

After winning prizes for his work at the Auckland Society of Arts, Charles Goldie was inspired by the example of his teacher Louis John Steele to travel to France to perfect his technique. In July 1893, the 22-year-old Goldie enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris, a private art school set up by Rodolphe Julian in Paris in 1868. Unlike the École des Beaux-Arts where Steele had studied, Julian admitted women and foreigners, and did not require proficiency in French. The instructors there were academic artists, upholding the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Goldie was to spend four-and-a-half years steeping himself in traditional academic approaches to figure painting at the Académie Julian, winning a gold medal for life painting in 1896. As well as visiting art museums to draw from the Old Masters, he travelled to Scotland for a six-month period in 1897 to study more modern techniques with the famed Scottish portraitist and “Glasgow Boy”, James Guthrie (1859-1930). Guthrie, who became president of the Royal Scottish Academy and was knighted in 1903 for his services to portraiture, painted with broad, square brushstrokes and was very influenced by the French Realists as well as Velázquez and Whistler. Goldie learned to refine his approach to rendering the texture and tone of skin, hair, and clothing and combine this with naturalistic light effects that made it seem as if sunlight was falling on the face of his sitters.

Charles Frederick Goldie (1870-1947)
‘A Midsummer’s Day, Maoriland: Pōkai – A Warrior Chieftain of the Ngāti Maru Tribe, NZ

oil on canvas laid onto board

signed and dated 1937 in brush point upper right; title inscribed and inscribed Cat No. I on artist’s original catalogue label affixed verso; original Royal Academy exhibition (1943) labels affixed verso; inscribed on original receipt addressed to Speight and dated 15/7/47: Pokai purchased – feel sure you will approve, regards Charles affixed verso
400 x 452mm

$850 000 - $1 350 000


Salon of the Société des artistes francais, Paris, 1938.
‘C. F Goldie’, John Leech Galleries, Auckland, 1948.

Alister Taylor and Jan Glen, C.F Goldie: His Life and Painting (Martinborough, 1977), p. 277.
Literature: The Evening Post, November 30, 1937.
New Zealand Herald, May 9, 1939.
C. F Goldie, Scrapbooks (Auckland Museum).
C.F Goldie, Scrapbooks (National Art Gallery).

Provenance: Collection of Hugh Speight, of the Speight’s Brewery family, Dunedin. Purchased on 1 July 1947 for £345. Thence by descent.
Purchased from Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, November 30 2011, Lot No. 40.

View lot here

Returning to Auckland in mid-1898, Goldie was recognised as one of the most highly skilled and well-trained artists of his generation. He set up his studio on the top floor of Hobson's Buildings, then next door to the Auckland Star office in Shortland Street, and recruited many Māori to sit for him, paying them a daily stipend and accommodation allowance. As they sat in front of him, he made pencil sketches and took photographs from different angles to use for reference as he worked up his oil painting later. This sitter, Hori Pōkai who was Ngāti Maru from Pūkorokoro (Miranda) and died in 1920, was posed draped in a korowai with two-stranded tassels or hukahuka, which Goldie owned.

Pōkai was the subject of at least ten portraits by Goldie, the earliest of which dates to 1905 when the artist visited Thames. The lines of Pōkai’s facial tattoo were deeply incised, made by tapping a bone chisel lashed to a small wooden haft to carve the pattern into the skin before a pigment made from a mixture of soot, oil and water was applied. By the time Goldie made his subsequent portraits of Hori Pōkai in 1917 and 1919, this way of chiseling tā moko into the skin was increasingly rare. Here, Pōkai’s head is turned to the side, so that the focus is not on the determined jaw that is a feature of the 1919 portrait A Sturdy, Stubborn Chief and 1921’s Pōkai the Strategist, but on the incised lines on Pōkai’s cheek and chin.

On exhibition, Goldie’s works always stood out in their distinctive black timber frames, but during the Depression years of the 1930s, opportunities to show and sell work in New Zealand decreased, and the work of more modern artists such as Rita Angus came to the fore. The English Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, encouraged Goldie to send his work to the Royal Academy in London, which accepted three works in 1934 and a fourth in 1935, but rejected all the works sent after that date, including this one. Annoyed by the English Academicians disdain, Goldie turned back to Paris, and was delighted to have his first painting accepted at the French Salon in 1935, followed by a further two in 1936. This portrait of Hori Pōkai was one of the two works which he had sent off in a blaze of newspaper publicity to the Royal Academy in 1937 only to be rejected summarily. He dispatched the same works the following year to Paris where they were accepted by the Salon, with In Dreamland even illustrated in the 1938 Salon catalogue. Now in his late sixties, Goldie’s career had come full circle, with artistic success in Paris, the city which had nurtured his talent 45 years before.

Linda Tyler