Oleograph, Dr Menzies Portrait; Unknown maker; 1870-1880; WY.1988.97


Oleograph, Dr Menzies Portrait

About this object

This is an oleograph half portrait of the Honourable J A R Menzies M.L.C. (1821-1888).

About Dr Menzies:

Dr James Alexander Robertson Menzies M.L.C was born in Perthshire, Scotland. The son of a doctor, he trained at the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. In 1853, he decided to migrate to New Zealand, changing profession to become a farmer.

He was the first settler to purchase a block in the Wyndham area (38,000 acres) after Commissioner Mantell purchased the southern region of New Zealand from local Māori at Bluff. Named Dunalister for his home in Scotland, Menzies' block was in the hinterland with neither roads nor railways to provide access to the port at Bluff. Menzies felt that the Otago Provincial Council was neglecting those in the south with their public works programme, and in 1857 he mounted a petition for the formation of a new province, to be called Murihiku. On April 1 1861, the Province of Southland was voted into existence. Menzies became the first Superintendent of Southland, and in this capacity he immediately began to develop a railway network.

Menzies was Superintendent until 1865 and continued to serve on the Southland Provincial Council until 1869. Southland re-joined Otago in 1869, however, Menzies continued to faithfully promote the interests of Southland in the Legislative Council until his death in 1888.

A tall and commanding figure, Menzies generally wore some distinctive item of Highland dress. A staunch Presbyterian, he believed in family worship and also taught in Sunday School. A political opponent once said of him, 'No mean action, no dishonest thought, could have found harbour in his mental calibre.'

In Invercargill, where he later resided, he was either president or a member of almost every public institution including the Caledonian Society, Bluff Harbour Board, Southland Education Board and the Invercargill Savings Bank. Although Menzies did not practice medicine in New Zealand he always responded to a call in an emergency and it is this consideration and care of people on a personal level which meant that, though at times his political life was turbulent, he was always held in high regard.

What is an Oleograph?

An oleograph is a form of print made to look like an oil painting. Involving a process called chromolithography, an oleograph is produced by preparing a separate printing press stone by hand for each colour to be used. Beginning with the lightest colours first, darker colours would be layered over the btop and sometimes as many as 30 stones were used for a single print to achieve all the colours required. Following this process a vanish would be applied and worked with a brush to mimic an oil painting. This technique was pioneered in the 1830s, however, it wasn't prevalent commercially until the 1860s.


Unknown maker

Maker Role


Date Made




Medium and Materials

organic, processed material, vegetal, wood
organic, processed material, vegetal, cotton (?)
inorganic, processed material, plaster, gesso
inorganic, processed material, metal, alloy, (?)
inorganic, processed material, synthetic, tape

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand

Inscription and Marks

Printed at bottom of portrait: 'HON (then in smaller print) BLE (then back to the standard size) J.A.R. MENZIES M.L.C'


h 9450 mm x w 8250 mm x d 120 mm

Subject and Association Keywords

Art and Design

Subject and Association Keywords

People and Families (including births, weddings, deaths)

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

Attribution (cc) Attribution (cc)

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