Marcus King: Painting New Zealand for the World
Marcus King's artistic achievements, spanning fine and commercial art over 50 years, are without New Zealand parallel. Arguably New Zealand's most viewed artist - his work was exhibited to a multimillion global audience - King was trusted for decades to paint New Zealand as an alluring tourism utopia and progressive agricultural and industrial power. Born in 1891, he is perhaps best known for his graphic art, especially the ground-breaking posters he produced for the New Zealand Tourism and Publicity Department in the 1930s. He was also a fine artist however, and his vision for his paintings - fresh, expansive, productive, aspirational - was his vision for New Zealand. He was part of the emergence of a truly national art, uniquely New Zealand in light and story, embracing Ma-ori culture - including our most recognisable Treaty image - and, bucking landscape tradition, commercial development of the land. It would be reasonable to assume that Marcus King's story would be well known, and that he would be celebrated for his considerable cultural contribution. Yet, until now, his art and life have remained largely unknown. Peter Alsop's book however, puts that to right, and for the first time Marcus King is given due credit. At the same time this book also makes a compelling argument that it is time to reconsider the significance of the cocktail of art, design, marketing and commerce that has contributed so much to New Zealand's proud history.