One of the first oils ever painted in New Zealand has returned here after more than two centuries out of the country.
Angus Fletcher, executive chairman of the Fletcher Trust Collection, said William Hodges' Dusky Bay (April, 1773) which was purchased in England had now arrived and was hanging in the organisation's private Auckland offices.
New Zealanders will get their first chance to see the tiny, precious painting at the Fabulous Fletcher Collection exhibition of more than 80 works which opens at Waikato Museum today and runs until mid-June.
The diminutive 14cm by 17cm work on wood was painted when the artist sailed here with Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution and is thought to have been painted from the ship's deck, because of its vantage point.
It was completed early in Captain Cook's second voyage to the Pacific after the first 1769 HMS Endeavour expedition. Painted 242 years ago, it has never been exhibited in New Zealand.
"It's arguably the first oil painting of New Zealand," Fletcher said, explaining how it had been in a private family collection before the trust discovered it was coming up for sale.
"We only bought it in September from a London private dealer. The one family had owned it since 1773 and it's such a thrill to have it. It bookmarks New Zealand art as we're still buying emerging artists but this is at the very start," Fletcher said.