Theo Schoon in Indonesian dress, 1980s, photographer unknown

Theo Schoon: Opening the archive 

When:
Exhibition now closed
14 February – 1 August 2008
Where:
Cost:
Type:
Arts 

 

Theo Schoon was a notable figure in New Zealand art in the mid 20th century. This exhibition opens up for public view Schoon’s archive, which Te Papa purchased in 2001. The works shown are just a sample of some 16,000 items that the archive contains – a mix of artworks, sketches, letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs.

Untitled motif and decoration for a carved gourd, about 1958, by Theo Schoon (1915–85)
Untitled motif and decoration for a carved gourd, about 1958, by Theo Schoon (1915–85)

The son of Dutch parents, Theo Schoon was born in Indonesia and came to live and work in New Zealand in 1939, aged 24. He drew on Indonesian art influences throughout his long career, and he became one of the first European artists in New Zealand to use customary Māori patterns and motifs in their work. Schoon’s characteristic blend of European modernism with inspiration from Māori art had a major impact on New Zealand art in the mid-twentieth century.

Schoon refused to separate ‘art’ and ‘craft’, and the works displayed here illustrate his major artistic interests: carving gourds and pounamu (greenstone), Māori and Indonesian art, designs for ceramics, and paintings, prints, and photographs. They give a fresh perspective on the powerful and unique work of this extraordinarily versatile artist. 

> See objects related to Theo Schoon in our Collections Online