Burial register ID: 7926
First name: WILLIAM
Middle names: MATHEW
Gender: Male
Age: 65 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 09-Feb-1898
Date of burial: 11-Feb-1898

Block: 160
Plot: 19



Bio contributor: Research by Simone Lehr

William Mathew Hodgkins (1833 – 1898) was a notable artist, principle founder of Dunedin’s Art Society and Gallery and provided an inspirational environment, in which many artists, including his famous daughter, Frances, developed.

He was born on 23 September 1833 in the midst of the dockside slums of Liverpool, Lancashire, England, the eldest son of William Hodgkins, a brushmaker and his wife, Jane Grocott (or Groocock). William Mathew already showed a talent for fine penmanship in his school years. The depression of the 1840s forced his father to abandon his business to work in an inland factory.

William Mathew was a clerk in London in 1852 and worked for some time in Holborn for the famous printers of stamps and banknotes, Waterlow and Sons. After spending approximately two years in Paris, he returned to London and immersed himself in the paintings in the National Gallery and Hampton Court, particularly those of J.M.W. Turner. He was an employee of the National Portrait Gallery in 1859.

Hodgkins followed his family who had immigrated to Melbourne, late in 1859, on board the White Star. Presumably attracted to Dunedin by the Gold Rush, he was living in Dunedin by 1862, where he established himself firstly as an ornamental writer and then as a law clerk for Gillies and Richmond. He met his future wife, Rachel Owen Parker, the daughter of a coroner, through the Masonic Lodge and they were married in St Paul’s Church, Dunedin, on 19 September 1865; together they had four sons and two daughters. He was admitted to the Otago Bar in 1868.

From the time he arrived in Otago, Hodgkins travelled widely to sketch and paint and his association with George O’Brien may have been important in his artistic development. Although he chose not to exhibit in the New Zealand Exhibition in 1865 he took charge of its photographic department. Hodgkins had a vision to start a national art collection, similar to the ones he remembered from Paris and London. His first attempt at establishing a permanent art collection for Dunedin failed, but following his founding of what is now the Otago Arts Society, he convinced the Society to start collecting pictures for a ‘national collection of works of art’ under his presidency in 1882. In October 1884 a resolution was passed that founded the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the first institution of its kind in New Zealand.

The decline of Hodgkins career forced the family to move out of their Royal Terrace home to a rented cottage in Ravensbourne. In 1888 he was forced to resign as Mayor of West Harbour after he was declared bankrupt. He continued to be heavily involved in the arts in Dunedin however. He played an important part in organising the Art department in the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition of 1889 – 90 and continued to push for a national art collection that would supply National Galleries in the four main centres of New Zealand. Although nothing came of this, the collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery continued to grow as did its number of supporters.

With the decline of his career as a lawyer came his recognition as a landscape painter, which he executed in a Turneresque Romantic manner. Hodgkins was still virtually penniless when he died in 1898, his wife surviving him by 28 years. Although he left behind little wealth, his memory was cherished as an ambitious, persevering and cheerful man who has played an important role both as artist and in shaping the cultural life of Dunedin.

William Mathew Hodgkins
Source: Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago.

There are 2 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
HODGKINS FRANK 54 Years 06-Feb-1932 09-Feb-1932
HODGKINS WILLIAM MATHEW 65 Years 09-Feb-1898 11-Feb-1898