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Artist Melvin Day gifts collection to Hamilton city

11 October 2016

Day media release teaser

Image: Detail, Cascade, Melvin Day. Collection of Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. 

Prominent New Zealand artist, the late Melvin “Pat” Day has bequeathed 60 paintings to Waikato Museum as a lasting legacy to Hamilton, the city of his birth.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says the Day artworks will become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“Waikato Museum’s collections contain many important regional artworks with links to the land, the river, our past and our people. Hamilton-born Day was a prolific and a radical painter in his time, and his abstract and cubist works have featured in many solo and group exhibitions.

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive this extensive collection of Melvin Day’s works which document his life and we look forward to sharing them in an exhibition in the future.”

In late 2015, Day, then in his 92nd year, decided he would gift this collection of paintings, spanning nearly 80 years of his practice to Waikato Museum.

Melvin Day died in January this year before his wish could be realised but the executors of Day’s estate with aid of the late artist’s agent, Mark Hutchins-Pond, have amassed the 60 works to gift to Waikato Museum.

Hutchins-Pond says the earliest work in the gift is a watercolour, Landscape near Waiuku, painted when the artist was a 14-year-old student attending classes at Elam in Auckland, while the most recent is a major oil canvas of a dramatic Fiordland scene, Cascade, painted 70 years later.

“The gift includes a number of gems from Day’s early experimental cubist years in Rotorua such as Cubist Still Life with Fruit and Bread Knife, 1948 and some of the artist’s rarely seen nudes from the mid-1950s. Arguably the most romantic work in the gift is a beautiful cubist nude of the artist’s wife, the most outstanding of only a few that were ever painted.”

“This gift will ensure the legacy of Melvin Day’s highly innovative and varied career as a major New Zealand artist will be preserved in perpetuity for generations of art lovers to come,” says Hutchins-Pond.

“Fine examples of Melvin Day’s works are held in major institutional collections throughout New Zealand but, as a result of this gift, Waikato Museum now holds the most extensive and comprehensive collection of his works in existence.”

About Melvin Day

Melvin Day had been painting for most of his life, and took up formal study at Elam (Auckland University School of Fine Arts) when he was just 11 years old. Over some 80 years, Day not only painted but studied internationally - everything from art history to philosophy, becoming the first Kiwi to be accepted and to graduate as a Master of Philosophy from London's prestigious Courtauld Institute.

Day was appointed the director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand (now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) in 1968 and in 1978 he was appointed government art historian. In 2003, Day was awarded the CNZM for his services to the arts. 


Louise Belay
Waikato Museum Partnerships and Communications Manager
07 838 6956
021 536 557