BOSWELL, Edward Blair Buchanan, 1860-1933
[NEW ZEALAND] Group of original landscape works by Westport (later Auckland) amateur watercolourist E. B. B. Boswell, 1887-1924.
I. The brigantine Oceola … Buller Bay 1887. [Title from artist’s caption on mount]. Watercolour on paper, 230 x 153 mm, signed and dated in the image lower right E. B. B. Boswell 1887; laid down on fully contemporary card (190 x 290 mm), verso titled in pencil by the artist (partially illegible), and signed E. B. B. Boswell. Damp staining to left and bottom margins of mount (not affecting image). Note: The Oceola was wrecked in 1887 at the mouth of the Buller River while being towed out of Westport with a cargo of coal.
II. Buller River at Westport / 5/5/95. [Title from artist’s caption on mount]. Watercolour on paper, 137 x 230 mm, initialed and dated in the image lower left E. B. B. B. / 95; laid down on fully contemporary card (190 x 285 mm), verso titled in pencil by the artist and signed E. B. B. Boswell. Water staining to mount and sections of image.
III. […] / Cape Foulwind R[…]hine / Westport 1898. [Title from artist’s caption on mount]. Crayon on paper, 205 x 130 mm, initialed and dated in the image lower right E. B. B. B. 1898; laid down on fully contemporary card (300 x 210 mm), verso titled in pencil by the artist (partially illegible) and signed E. B. B. Boswell. Mild damp staining to top margin of mount (not affecting image).
IV. Lake Brunner (Moana) / 6 miles long by 4 miles wide / Mountains the Hohonu Range / Westland. [Title from artist’s caption on mount]. Watercolour on paper, 124 x 169 mm, initialed in the image lower left E. B. B. B. and captioned and dated lower right Lake Brunner. NZ. 5.6.18.; laid down on fully contemporary card (175 x 225 mm), verso titled in pencil by the artist and signed E. B. B. Boswell. Water staining to mount and sections of image.
V. Waitemata & North Head / Auckland / Evening / from Ely House, Remuera Rd. [Title from artist’s caption on mount]. Watercolour on paper, 82 x 165 mm, initialed and dated in the image lower right E. B. B. B. 1924; laid down on fully contemporary card (170 x 270 mm), verso titled in pencil by the artist and signed and dated E. B. B. Boswell 1924. Fine condition.
The above works are accompanied by a small group of Boswell family photographs and ephemera:
(i). [Three schoolboys in fancy dress costume]. Albumen print, cabinet card format, 165 x 106 mm (mount), lower margin recto with imprint of [W. H.] Vinsen, Westport; verso blank; the print is in good condition, with small loss to bottom corner of mount. Note: The trio of boys in this 1890s studio portrait were presumably Boswell’s pupils at the Wesport high school. One is dressed as Punch, one possibly as Captain Cook (?), and the other perhaps as a Musketeer.
(ii) [Portrait of a gentleman]. Albumen print, 225 x 185 mm, laid down on 1880s card mount; no identifying inscriptions. Note: The dignified sitter in this very large format portrait, no doubt taken from an 1850s daguerreotype, is possibly E. B. B. Boswell’s father.
(iii) Rock Archway, Buller Gorge. [Title from Boswell’s caption on mount]. Silver gelatin print, 152 x 205 mm, imprint at lower left of the New Zealand Government Tourist Department, negative no. 1670, dated 7 January 1903; verso with Dept.’s wet stamp and captioned in pencil by E. B. B. Boswell.
(iv). Legends & Stories of the Maori connected with Auckland Peninsula. Manuscript notes in pencil in the hand of E. B. B. Boswell, 4 pp, octavo (205 x 130 mm); probably written in the 1920s. Light foxing.
(v) Pair of early to mid-19th century watercolours on paper, probably Argyllshire landscapes done by a member of the Boswell family. Each 200 x 305 mm; unmounted and unsigned; both damp stained.
Provenance of all items: Edward Blair Buchanan Boswell (Westport and Auckland); private collection, Melbourne.
‘BOSWELL, EDWARD BLAIR BUCHANAN 1860–1933. Born in Argyllshire, Scotland, lived in Stewarton and attended Rothesay Academy at some time. Came to New Zealand with mother and brother, arriving in Otago on Lyttelton 6 Sept 1880: lived in Dunedin for about 3 years, taking lessons in 1883 from painter George O’Brien (a fellow student was A. W. Walsh). Moved with his mother to Westport, took up school teaching and married Ida Charlotte Fair from Charleston. By 1906 when his son was born was deputy head master of the high school at Westport. In 1916 he retired and came to Auckland. He lived in Remuera until he died. His son James Edward Buchanan Boswell, who was to become a successful British graphic artist, wrote of his father as a skilled amateur watercolourist who did little work but kept up a passionate interest in the arts. The house he designed and built in Westport had in it furniture designed by him and made from New Zealand woods and in everything like this he was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement ideas which he got from The Studio, subscribing to it from the beginning. He collected books and they made the background for many other of his interests—his shell collecting, his topographical photography, his fashioning of furniture in carved wood and beaten brass, his collecting of botanical specimens and of geological specimens. Represented in Hocken.’ (Nineteenth century New Zealand artists: a guide and handbook. Victoria University, Wellington)
The following reminiscence of E. B. B. Boswell by his artist son, James, is quoted in an essay by Herbert Roth, James Boswell : a New Zealand artist in London, in Auckland City Art Gallery Quarterly, Number 65, December 1977:
‘”My father,” wrote Boswell in an aubiographical letter, “helped to create surroundings which made simple and acceptable the idea of being a painter. He was a skilful amateur watercolourist who did little work but kept up a passionate interest in the arts. The house he designed and built in Westport was very much influenced by Arts and Crafts Movement ideas which he absorbed from The Studio (he subscribed to it from its beginning and kept it as well as all the year books and special numbers). He designed all the furniture as well and had it made from New Zealand woods… He was addicted to books. Never threw one away. The house was full of them and I lived off them. My mother told me much later that, when they married, my father owed the local bookseller a debt larger than his year’s salary… This bookish world was the background to a lot of activity. He collected shells… He collected botanical specimens… He collected geological specimens, worked industriously as an amateur topographical photographer, designed furniture and made it in carved wood and beaten brass and round about April every year he took to watercolour painting (on a small scale). My mother claimed that these spells began and ended always on the same dates. As a result of these various interests he never persisted at anything for long enough to excel at it but he managed to create in his home a cultural circle which attracted people from all over New Zealand. It was much the same in Auckland – we moved there in 1917 and seemed to have an open house. Being a painter seemed to me the most natural and easy thing in the world, once I had persuaded the family that they didn’t need a doctor in the family”‘ (ibid., p.3).