Marking Wellington’s 150 years as capital of New Zealand, the NZ Portrait Gallery’s Capital Characters exhibition celebrates Wellingtonians from 1840 to now. On a recent Friends’ visit to the Gallery, curator David Colquhoun talked about the people in the portraits.

The exhibition combines images of city leaders, public figures and ordinary people. Many Friends will know the grand oil paintings of historic figures such as Isaac Featherston and Te Puni, but possibly not the ‘mug shots’ of early residents of the Terrace Gaol or Leonard Mitchell’s pencil portraits drawn for the Human Endeavour mural in the 1956 Lower Hutt War Memorial Library.

Specially commissioned for the exhibition, Wellington Radicals by Sally Griffin is a vibrant oil on canvas that depicts Samuel Parnell, responsible for the introduction of the eight-hour day, Edward Tregear, the first Head of the Department of Labour in 1891 and Grace Neill, New Zealand’s first woman inspector of factories. A highly political town even before Parliament arrived here, Wellington has always been a city of lively characters.

Elizabeth Kay

Feature image: Allen Ng and Sue Jamieson, with curator David Colquhoun standing in front of Wellington Harbour & Hills Viewed from Fault Line by Bob Kerr.