John Drawbridge's New Zealand House Mural

Story by Aaron Frater

Museum and Heritage Studies, 2015

New Zealand House Mural

  • <p>John Drawbridge, <em>NZ House Mural</em>, 1963, on loan to the Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection from Archives New Zealand. Image courtesy of the VUW Art Collection. </p>
  • <p>On display in the Maclaurin Foyer. Image courtesy of Kate Jordan, 2017.</p>
  • <p>More information.Image courtesy of Kate Jordan, 2017.</p>

The Mural in Focus

John Drawbridge left New Zealand in the 1950s on a scholarship to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.

Whilst in London he was invited to create a mural for New Zealand House, the home of New Zealand's High Commission in London. The mural was painted on several large panels and installed in 1963.

Surrounded by influences of technical excellence and exploratory art making, he was well placed to complete the mural commission.

The paint use in New Zealand House Mural is influenced by a variety of sources, particularly large-scale American abstract expressionism and European abstraction.

The textured surface marks in the mural are reminiscent of the carved marks the artist would have been familiar with as an accomplished print maker.

The mural signifies Drawbridge’s relationship to his homeland while he was so far away from it.

Much of his work focused on images of the coastal environments of New Zealand, especially Wellington's south coast.

The New Zealand House Mural traverses the country from east to west, taking the viewer on a journey through sky, light, land forms and sea.

New Zealand House Mural at Victoria

After significant renovations at Archives New Zealand, the mural could no longer fit in the new space.

When no place could accommodate it, it was loaned to Victoria University where it now hangs in the Maclaurin Building.

The large brick wall it now hangs on once held Colin McCahon’s Gate 3 (1970), which can now be seen at Victoria’s Pipitea Campus.

Go and Find It!

Maclaurin Foyer, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand