"New Plymouth Under Siege"

Production date
1860
Description
Watercolour and pencil view of New Plymouth from Pūkākā Pā/Marsland Hill depicting the evacuation of women and children up the hill to take shelter at the barracks during an alarm. The scene includes details formed with paper collage pieces and cut outs, and is made to be viewed with a light source behind to create an optical amusement. As such the watercolour has been matted and placed in a frame that incorporates a lightbox.

In the foreground, the hooded figures of women and children walk steadily up the foot of Marsland Hill, moving towards the left. Behind them are rows of tents and military personnel from the 40th Regiment wearing red uniforms walking in formation towards the right. Other personnel wearing red are moving along a street on the right.

St Mary's Church and graveyard dominates the middle of the foreground, with the rest of New Plymouth's buildings stretching out towards the coast behind. The buildings are outlined with pencil and many of the buildings' windows have been cut out. The encampment on Puke Ariki Pā/Mount Eliot sits directly behind the roof of the church, with the signal mast standing above the horizon line.

In the background Paritūtū Rock and the Sugar Loaf Islands are on the far left and four ships are positioned just off the coast to the right of the signal mast. The sea is calm, and there are light clouds in the sky.

The scene is depicted in muted shades of mostly blue, green and brown, along with the red of the uniforms. It appears dull, but when viewed with the lightsource behind turned on it becomes clear that this is a night scene. The tents and buildings appear brightly lit from within, and the half-moon, high up on the left amongst the clouds, creates a warm yellow glow on the water's surface.

Edwin Harris painted and drew several other versions of this scene, all of which take place during the day on 3 August 1860 when troops from the 40th Regiment were disembarking. However there was no alarm or evacuation that night, nor was there a half moon. Contemporary accounts also record that the disembarkation of troops was completed in the morning (research sourced from: https://emilycummingharris.blogs.auckland.ac.nz/2019/08/22/some-lighted-windows/).

Object detail

Artist/Maker
Production role
Artist
Production date
1860
Subject person
Classification
Current rights
Accession number
PA2022.002
Collection type

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