Monday, March 02, 2015

Donkey work

The International Art Centre in Auckland is putting ‘Simpson’s donkey’ on the block later next month. The painting by ‘New Zealand’ artist Horace Moore-Jones (he was born in England, lived in NZ for a few years before training as an artist in Sydney and then going back to Britain, but did live his last five years in NZ) is not actually of Simpson (an English ‘Australian’) or of Simpson’s donkey (most likely Greek) for that matter.  The image is of New Zealand born and bred Richard Henderson who also used a donkey (possibly before Simpson) to rescue Gallipoli soldiers. Moore-Jones's most famous version of the subject was painted in Dunedin from a photograph that he believed to be of Simpson (there is a print in the Turnbull Library) and the IAC one would have been painted later again. In fact there are about six versions of the painting. 

The IAC version last came up for auction six years ago at Webb’s and was knocked down for $110,000. This time round the IAC are expecting to get  $200,000 no doubt helped by the Government’s WWI celebration frenzy. So will this same Government buy the work? Probably not. The last time they were offered work by Horace Moore-Jones was in the 1920s and it was all his Gallipoli watercolours for  £1,500. They said “no thanks” so you have see them at the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra.

Images: top, the Moore-Jones on sale at the International Art Centre. Bottom left, the photograph of Richard Henderson with his donkey and right, a print struck from the original watercolour.