“Entirely from Nature”: Art Lessons at St John’s Collegiate School

Advertisement for art classes at St John’s College. W Dittmer [KIN 70-1-8]
Advertisement for art classes at St John’s College. W Dittmer. [KIN 70-1-8 John Kinder Theological Library]
While working on a research request I came across this advertisement for drawing, painting and sketching lessons at St John’s College to be taught by Wilhelm Dittmer. This piece of ephemera is held in our ‘St John’s School and King’s College’ collection of papers.

Herr Dittmer was a German-born artist who had arrived New Zealand prior to the turn of the Twentieth Century. In 1899, he had established “The Auckland School of the Decorative Arts” in his studio in Victoria Arcade on Queen Street.

Dittmer, Wilhelm, 1866-1909. Dittmer, Wilhelm 1866-1909 :The keeper of Pahikaure ... Chromo litho by Christchurch Press Company Ltd ... [lithography by] Phil R Presants ... from the painting by W. Dittmer. [Christchurch] 1906. Ref: C-067-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23204053
The Keeper of Pahikaure – WIlhelm Dittmer. 1909 lithograph. [Alexander Turnbull Library]
His art was included in the Auckland Society of Arts exhibition in 1900, alongside other notable New Zealand artists as Louis John Steele, Frank and Waiter Wright and C. F. Goldie. All of who were integral in the development of colonial art in New Zealand. These artists also had, at one time, studios in Victoria Arcade where many of them held art classes for the paying public.

In 1901 Herr Dittmer was teaching landscape and painting at The Ladies College and School of Music in Remura. By 1902, he was employed by St John’s Collegiate School at the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough as a Visiting Master instructing pupils in landscape painting. The school had moved from the campus of St John’s College in Tamaki earlier that year.

Te Tohunga: The Ancient Legends and Traditions of the Maori by W. Dittmer (p57).
Te Tohunga: The Ancient Legends and Traditions of the Maori by W. Dittmer (p57).

By 1904 he had left New Zealand for London. His book ‘Te Tohunga: The Ancient Legends and Traditions of the Maori’ was published in 1907. It was criticised at the time for it’s inaccuracies in recounting these Maori legends but the dazzling, stylised line-work of the illustrations are still rather striking.

Wilhelm Dittmer died only two years after the publication of Te Tohunga in 1909 in Hamburg, Germany.

An article from Art New Zealand with a history of the Victoria Arcade building and the artists who resided there.

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