Born in Thames in 1891, Vera (Veronica) Cummings parents were pioneer settlers of Scottish and Irish descent. Her father Matthew arrived in New Zealand in 1862 from County Armagh, Ireland. Matthew Cummings served in the First Waikato Regiment during the Waikato and Tauranga campaigns. He was then discharged and settled on land granted by the Government. By 1870 he had moved to Thames and was for many years a member of the Thames Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Vera’s mother Annie came to Auckland from Tasmania as a child with her mother and stepfather, Sergeant James Knox, during the Waikato War. She boarded at the Onehunga Convent for many years. After marrying Matthew Cummings, the family lived in St. Johns Redoubt, Hamilton; and later moved to Tauranga.
Later they moved to Auckland where Matthew Cummings was employed in the building trade and erected many large timber houses around Ponsonby and Herne Bay. It was most likely that he met David Goldie through his business interests and arranged for Vera to study under C. F. Goldie.
Vera’s health was always delicate and because of this, and lack of money, she had no opportunity of studying and developing her art overseas. At the age of eleven she was awarded a scholarship to attend Elam School of Fine Arts. She was one of the youngest pupils to attend the school. From here she became a pupil of Goldie, and was considered the only one to be able to reproduce the colour of Maori skin as Goldie painted.
After graduating from Elam, Cummings later painted alongside Goldie often sharing the same models. Their models were generally elderly Maori who lived in the Maori hostel near Parnell. Vera herself lived in Parnell near Judges Bay for nearly 60 years. During this period she produced her almost unique landscape – a picture of Judges Bay without road or railway.
Her studies of Maoris were in great demand from overseas buyers. Beside the subjects she shared with Goldie she painted many other Maoris from in and around Auckland.
Vera Cummings died in Auckland in 1949.
Harata Tuhaere, Chieftainess, Widow of Paora Tuhaere of Orakei
Oil on canvas
30.5 x 25.5 cm