CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Theo Schoon: opening the archive

Exhibition: 14 February - 1 August 2008

From the museum website

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.

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.

Article on exhibition in NRC Handelsblad, 23 May 2008 (pdf 1.2 Mb)