A Romantic Abroad: Leonard Victor Mitchell
4 to 29 February 2020
A New Zealand artist who sought out the landscapes, townscapes and characters which had inspired his own artistic heroes.
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Mitchell Studios started life back in March 2018 with a pop-up exhibition of the work of late New Zealand artist Leonard Victor Mitchell. The exhibition was organised by the Mitchell family and friends and comprised of artworks held in the family collection. The success of that first exhibition, bolstered by a story on TVNZ’s Sunday programme, led to the establishment of a permanent gallery. A follow-up exhibition concentrated on Leonard’s New Zealand works and 2020 starts with A Romantic Abroad – a new exhibition of Leonard Victor Mitchell’s work focused on his time in England and Europe.
Brought up in Wellington and educated at the Wellington Technical College of Art, Leonard Victor Mitchell was a well-known and successful part of the local art scene during the 1950s. Director of the Lambton Galleries, Mitchell was the winner of the inaugural Kelliher Art Award for landscape painting (1956, and again in 1958) and the creator of the ambitious murals at the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library. He painted many of the key figures of the day – the Rt. Hon. Walter Nash (collection of Te Papa Tongarewa), Dame Ngaio Marsh (Ryman Healthcare collection), architect James Chapman-Taylor, conductor Warwick Braithwaite (National Library) and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Bennett DSO MA (National Archives), as well as many of his contemporaries such as Nugent Welch (National Library), Sam Cairncross and Peter McIntyre.
In 1959 Mitchell was awarded a scholarship by the Netherlands Institute for International Cultural Relations and left for Holland the following year to study the work of his heroes – Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vincent van Gogh. On completion of the scholarship he settled in the English village of Coggeshall where he remained until his early death in 1980. During the 1960s and 70s Leonard achieved considerable success in Europe, exhibiting in Belgium and Monte Carlo and at the Paris Salon where he received two gold medals (1968 & 1971), one silver medal (1967), and an honorable mention (1966) for painting and printmaking.
So why do we refer to Leonard as A Romantic Abroad? Leonard was a proponent of traditional painting and naturalism. The son of a commercial artist, he was a believer in solid draughtsmanship and attention to detail and was opposed to modernism and abstraction. However, he was also a romantic, very spiritual, and took great interest in unusual and exotic subjects such as the English wanderers and travellers which feature heavily in his work. Our new exhibition seeks to give its audience Leonard’s view of England and Europe of the 60s and 70s – the view of a New Zealand artist who sought out the landscapes, townscapes and characters which had inspired his own artistic heroes.