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Published: 28 October 2022

By Andy Ross

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Arthur Fairburn

Born in Auckland Taamaki Makaurau in 1904, Arthur Fairburn was a writer, critic and poet, and sometimes, a textile designer. 

Commissioned by Helen Hitchins to produce hand-block printed fabrics for her gallery in Wellington, Arthur used Theo Schoon's drawings of Maori paintings and glyphs as material for his textiles. Nowadays Schoon's appropriation (and, by association, Fairburn's too) are rightly seen as problematic but it cannot be denied that the end results are rather wonderful. 

This week we have been watching The Big Picture, Hamish Keith's exploration of Aotearoa New Zealand's art. It has been full of surprises, and the Maori threads that run through the programme have been particularly interesting. It was through this series that we learnt about Arthur Fairburn's work and much more besides. Episode 5 of the series is on TVNZ here.