Our Story So Far

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​Well i'm sure it's a terrible cliche, but what do you write in a first blog post? I'm new to blogging but hope this one will serve as an opportunity to share what's happening here at Mitchell Studios.

Maybe the best place to start is with a little overview of the Mitchell Studios story... We first began to occupy the space at 15 Ganges Road Khandallah Village during mid-March 2018. The beautiful new premises were yet to be tenanted and the landlords kindly agreed to let us hold a pop-up art exhibition. The exhibition was of my late Uncle's work. Leonard Victor Mitchell was a New Zealand artist who grew up in Ngaio, studied art at the Wellington Technical College School of Art and ran the Lambton Galleries here in Wellington. During the 1950s Leonard was exhibiting at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and was a well sought-after portrait painter, with prominent New Zealand sitters including Dame Ngaio Marsh, James Chapman-Taylor and Guide Rangi. A number of his portraits are held in public collections: Te Papa (Prime Minister Sir Walter Nash), the Alexander Turnbull Library (artist Nugent Welch and librarian Stuart Perry) and the National Collection of War Art, Archives New Zealand (Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Bennett). He was also recognised for his landscape work, taking first place in the Kelliher Art Award in both 1956 and 1958 and was commissioned to complete a number of public works, most notably the 3 large-scale murals at the Lower Hutt War Memorial library. Leonard was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts London and, in 1959, was awarded the Netherlands Government Art Fellowship by the Netherlands Institute for International Cultural Relations. His Farewell Exhibition was held in September the same year and in March 1960 he left for Holland with his wife Pat and brother Frank (my Dad). Eventually settling in England, Leonard sadly never returned to New Zealand. A number of years back I built a website to celebrate and showcase Leonard's work and you can read more of his story there.

When Leonard passed away suddenly in 1980 the family brought his widow and enormous collection of artworks back to New Zealand. When she passed away 17 years ago what remained of the collection came to my Dad, Leonard's youngest brother. Being the caretaker of an artist's body of work is a great honour but also a great responsibility. Dad sat on the collection for many years, waiting for the right opportunity to bring it back into the public eye. Our pop-up exhibition - Leonard Victor Mitchell: A Fine Art Exhibition - was that opportunity. Assisted by family and friends, we put the exhibition together and the response from our local community was overwhelmingly positive. A feature story on TVNZ's Sunday programme (viewable here) garnered us even more attention and in June 2018 Mitchell Studios was born. Taking its name from my Grandfather's Wellington commercial art studio, Mitchell Studios is a fine art gallery and creative agency, whose aim is to support New Zealand artists and artisans, both past and present.

So 2018 was a big year. August saw the addition of a small number of limited edition art prints from Leonard's watercolours and we have since added four more. Digitised and colour matched to the originals by New Zealand Micrographic Services, our prints are printed on 308gsm Hahnemühle PhotoRag© white cotton artist's paper using Epson Ultrachrome HDR Inks and are hand numbered and embossed with Leonard's signature. New Zealand Micrographic Services featured the job as a story on their blog.

October 2018 saw the publication of a book celebrating the work of Leonard Victor Mitchell and his father, Leonard Cornwall Mitchell, a world-class illustrator, artist and stamp designer. Like a third child for me, ​Mitchell & Mitchell: A Father & Son Arts Legacy​, was a three-way collaboration between myself, Peter Alsop and Richard Wolfe. 

Leonard C. Mitchell and Leonard V. Mitchell – father and son – are two forgotten artistic heroes. Now, critically studied for the first time, their highlight reel runs long. No other family can likely claim such a diverse contribution to New Zealand art.

Mitchell & Mitchell: A Father & Son Arts Legacy

Mitchell & Mitchell​ will always be available to purchase from Mitchell Studios.

We combined the launch of our book with the opening of a new exhibition of Leonard's work - Leonard's Fifties: 50 Artworks from Mid-Century New Zealand. This exhibition aimed to show, in part, the variety of work Leonard was undertaking in New Zealand during the 1950s and is a mixture of portraits, landscapes and still life. Some of its key attractions were Leonard's original designs for the War Memorial Library murals. The bulk of the exhibition remains on display.

Since November Mitchell Studios has welcomed the work of other artists and creatives in the form of paintings, ceramics, jewellery, illustrated scarves, homewares and personal accessories. The local community have again embraced the additions and we look forward to building our range of goodies this year. Our next major exhibition will be of the work of Eastbourne-based artist Phillip Waddington and we are so excited at the prospect of welcoming him to the gallery. Please join our mailing list to receive invitations to the openings of future exhibitions.

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Thursday, 23 May 2019