Marianne Muggeridge

Story by Isabel Herstell

Faculty of Science, 2017

A Portrait of Victoria's Science

Marianne Muggeridge is a full-time artist recently moved to Taranaki, having previously lived for 11 years in Wellington.

Marianne’s ‘creative impetus’ has been to work from life in a variety of media. “I was taught life drawing at Elam in 1971, and though it was not for very long, I was set on a course of painting and drawing from life and from what I saw.”

Her talent for portraiture granted her the opportunity to paint two very important portraits of Victoria alumni who are remembered as two of New Zealand’s great contributors to science - Alan MacDiarmid, and Sir Paul Callaghan.

Making the Portraits

In 2002, Marianne was commissioned to paint a portrait of Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and Victoria graduate, Alan MacDiarmid by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery and the Royal Society of New Zealand.

In 2008, she was again commissioned by the Royal Society to paint Sir Paul Callaghan who obtained his undergraduate degree in Physics here at Victoria and was a Professor here from 2001 until his death in 2012.

Marianne’s creative process for both portraits of Alan and Sir Paul stayed true to her signature style: both were painted in real time with the sitter in front of her.

When asked how she decided on the aesthetic of each portrait, Marianne described her given parameters as, “being completely free to do as I thought fit. I collaborated with each of the sitters about the actual mechanics of painting from life”.

Alan came to Marianne’s studio over a long weekend to sit for the painting of his head and neck. “I asked him for his shirt, as he was leaving New Zealand for Philadelphia, and dressed up a dummy,” says Marianne. From this she was able to complete his body.

The chemical equation on the wall behind Alan in his portrait is his Nobel Prize-winning formula polyacetylene – a chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms that has been ‘doped’ with an iodine atom.

When painting Sir Paul, Marianne set her easel up in his office at the MacDiarmid institute. “I had more time with Paul. His diagnosis came through just as I had finished his head.”

Marianne was set to meet with Sir Paul again but, due to his illness, the completion of his head marked their last session together. “Both such busy and popular men, I could not ask them to sit while I painted the folds in their shirts - their hands were both done from photos.”

A Portrait in the Making

  • <p>The Scientist and the Artist. Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>
  • <p>Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>
  • <p>Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>
  • <p>Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>
  • <p>Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>
  • <p>Behind the scenes images of Marianne's time painting the late Alan MacDiarmid. Images supplied by Marriane Muggeridge.</p>

A Lasting Impression

When reflecting on the painting of the two scientists Marianne spoke of both men with affection.

“I spent long hours with both Alan and Paul. We talked about all sorts of things, both were generous with their time.”

“We had some funny moments - at one time Paul was trying to explain what he did as a scientist, and with next to no response, said that he ‘worked with very, very, small things.'”

Looking to the Future

Since 2005, the Royal Society of New Zealand has organised special VIP science classes where movers and shakers in the arts and cultural sector have been invited to learn about science and incorporate it into their practices.

Marianne’s regular attendance at these classes speaks to the value of bringing together the two disciplines. Although their disciplines were worlds apart, together Marianne, Sir Paul and Alan show the interconnected nature of creativity and the sciences.

Looking to the future, Marianne continues to paint in her shared studio space with her husband Roger.

Faculty of Science

Cotton Building, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand