Artwork Description / Detail
Trevor Moffitt was one of New Zealand’s leading narrative painters. Moffitt’s expressionist paintings reveal the lives and stories of ordinary working New Zealanders.
Born in Gore, Moffitt trained at the Southland Technical College (1950-54), the University of Canterbury School of Art (1955-57) and the Auckland Teachers’ College (1958). Whilst completing his Diploma of Fine Arts, Moffitt received tuition from notable New Zealand artists such as Bill Sutton and Russell Clark. After graduating with honours in 1957, Moffitt won the prestigious Rosa Sawtell Life Painting prize. During this time Moffitt became aware and more particularly concerned with the way in New Zealand was being painted from a ‘European’ perspective. Moffitt sought to change this tradition and set out to paint ‘this place’ in his own unique style.
Moffitt was drawn to stories of native folklore and to social issues particularly relevant to New Zealanders. He would often paint a large number of works for each ‘story’ or series. He identified his painting with the South Island landscape around Invercargill, where he taught from 1960 – 61 at the Southland Technical College. In 1961, he married Alison Hamilton and began exhibiting with The Group in Christchurch. In 1962, he began teaching at Timaru Girl’s High School. On moving to Timaru he began to paint a sequence of oils based on the life of James McKenzie, the dover who was imprisoned on a charge of stealing a thousand sheep from a South Canterbury station in 1855. During 1964 – 65 Moffitt pained a succession of thirteen works centered on this folk hero. It was during his residency in Timaru that Peter Tomory, Director of the Auckland City Art Gallery, included him in Contemporary New Zealand Painting 1963, Moffitt’s first national exposure in a North island public art museum.
Moffitt’s first solo exhibition was held in the Dunedin public Library in September 1964. In 1966 Moffitt moved to Burnside High School, Christchurch, becoming head of art and senior dean. From 1969 – 1975, Moffitt was the art critic for The Press, and in 1979 he received a QEII Arts Council grant to complete a series entitled, My Father’s Life, about his father and his family history.
Moffitt retired from teaching to paint full-time in 1987, assisted by the commission of the Freezing Works series, which led to his only visit to Europe as the guest of the Dutch patrons.
Trevor Moffitt died at his home in Christchurch on Tuesday, 11 April 2006 shortly before the publication of his biography by Chris Ronayne, and on the same night as the opening of his last exhibition of paintings, Hokonui Moonshine Final Works.
Moffitt’s works are held in major New Zealand collections, including the Auckland Art gallery, Aigantighe, Anderson Park, Dowse, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Forrester, Eastern Southland Art Gallery, Hawkes Bay Museum, Hocken Library, Manuwatu Art Gallery, McDougall, Roturua Museum, Sarjeant, Suter and Te Papa Tongarewa.