|Art - New Zealand|
|Realisation Price||646.25 NZD|
Webb's / Works of Art - 28/11/2019 / Art / Lot 36
(17AD) UNA PLATTS Vernon Brown from Ayr Street n\Una Platts watercolour and charcoal on paper signed and inscribed Vin graphite verso 335 x 480mm Una Oakley Platts (1908–2005) An avid traveller and astute researcher, the delightful personality and adventurous spirit of Auckland portrait painter and art historian Una Platts made her a knowledgeable and valued friend to many of the leading artists and art historians of her time. Descended from Anglican Reverend F. C. Platts, the vicar of Holy Trinity in Port Chalmers, Una was born and raised in Wellington, but maintained a close connection to Dunedin and Otago, where several of her portraits, including a fine study of Ralph Hotere, are in the collection of the Hocken Library. Her estate-agent father brought the family to Auckland in 1920 and enrolled Una at Diocesan School for Girls, where she excelled academically before going on to study English, French, mathematics and music for her Bachelor of Arts from Auckland University College. From 1927 until 1956 she enthralled generations of students with her gifted schoolteaching. She loved to draw, and broke into her country service in 1937 to visit England to study portrait painting with Frank Slater (1903–1965), the famous artist who went on to publish his instructional text in 1949. Back in Auckland, Una began teaching at Whenuapai, continuing to study art part-time at the Elam School of Fine Arts. She was very much part of the nascent artistic scene in the early 1950s in Auckland, and was particularly close to Anne and Colin McCahon, gifting the McCahon painting (1953) to the Auckland City Art Gallery two years before her death. His simple brush-and-ink portrait of her in that collection is inscribed “Una from Colin 1959”. While she was still teaching, McCahon (then Keeper at the Auckland City Art Gallery) asked her to research English-born Frank Wright and his younger brother Walter for the summer exhibition in 1954. She located many landscapes in private collections, and the display of 38 paintings was accompanied by a catalogue in which she published a chronology of their work and an essay on their significance, with an admiring introduction by McCahon. Knowing that she herself was a portrait painter, the following year McCahon proposed that she select images of some of Auckland’s colonists for another summer exhibition. This time she wrote the text for a more extensive catalogue, published in 1955 – . In 1956, aged 48, she retired from teaching to devote herself to art-historical research, curating an exhibition of 65 works (including one she owned herself) by John Barr Clark Hoyte during the winter of 1957. Two years later, she had amassed enough research on 19th-century Auckland artists to curate an exhibition of 226 works and publish a 59-page catalogue () with biographical notes on each artist. She later developed a lecture series on this topic with architectural historian and friend John Stacpoole, publishing her research as a book, , in 1971. The death of her 92-year-old mother in 1960 brought great changes in Una’s life. She subdivided the orchard off from the family property on Lake Road, Takapuna, and designed a modernist house for herself that she would soon fill with flowers, music, friends, art and books. A particularly close friend was Molly Macalister (1920–1979) who had an exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1959 with fellow sculptors Anne Severs and Alison Duff. Inspired by the 1956 visit of Dr Grace Morley from San Francisco, and Colin and Anne McCahon’s four-month trip to America in 1958, as well as the touring exhibition , which featured American painting, Una decided to travel to the United States in 1961. She based herself in New York for a few months before moving on to England. Her article in 51, published in Winter 1989, recounts her exploits at private views at the Staempfli, Kootz, and Cordier and Warren galleries, seeing work by Macalister’s hero, Italian sculptor Marino Marini, and paintings by abstract expressionists such as Elmer Bischoff. Introduced by MoMA’s Director of Exhibitions Monroe Wheeler (1899–1988) to the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at a party, she was more impressed when one of Met’s staff remarked on the silver brooch by Colin McCahon that she was wearing. On her return to New Zealand in 1962, she began to concentrate on her portrait painting, but “chivvied along by Colin McCahon” also continued research for what would become her indispensable guide and handbook, , published in 1980. At the suggestion of Charles Brasch, in 1969 she was invited to curate an exhibition of the works of Dunedin’s most famous artistic daughter at the Hocken Library at the University of Otago. built on the research of her close friend, Frances Hodgkins’ biographer Eric McCormick (1906–1995). She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1992, but continued to live in her own home, cared for by friends, until her death on 6 July 2005.