Rotorua Museum Exhibitions: the Dutch connection


Over the school holidays I managed to corral some teenagers into a visit to Rotorua Museum to see two of the exhibitions currently showing.

The first was called “Inner Worlds: the art and life of Walter Bakkenes” and the second was “Rembrandt Remastered”. Both are on show until the end of November and are well worth a visit. There is very little connection between the two artists, other than that they are in adjoining galleries and were both Dutchmen.

the face of the master

the face of the master

Let me start with the Rembrandt, which has brought together 57 of the 330 paintings he created. Not the real paintings, which are scattered across 18 different countries, but life-sized digitally remastered copies. This enhancement allows us to see what they might have looked like when the canvasses had just left Rembrandt’s studio, not as we see them now in the museums of the world. I recall seeing my first genuine Rembrandts in the National Gallery in London, where I was amazed how dark and moody they were. I was also startled by the use of light in such dark pictures. Seeing these now in Rotorua I can finally appreciate the incredible detail, lost under centuries of varnish and fading.

Some of the canvasses are huge. The “Night Watch” in particular measures 4 metres wide and 3 metres high and fills an entire wall of the gallery. Some of the self-portraits are incredibly detailed and almost look like photographs rather than paintings when you stand up close and see the wrinkles on the forehead and bags under the eyes. Another large canvas is called “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp”. I have always found this a rather odd painting, but here I was struck by the way that all the eight men on the canvas are looking in different directions and only one of them at the body they are supposed to be examining.img_4539-students-of-dr-tulp

Helpfully there is a painting split down the middle to show the before and after impact of the remastering. The incredible difference in the level of detail of clothes and fabric leaves you both astonished and with a new appreciation of the skill of the painter. His ability to capture the effect of ruffled silk, for example, is exceptional.

The Walter Bakkenes exhibition was also a little gem. He was born near Amsterdam in the 1920s and joined the Medical Corps at the outbreak of the Second World War. The harsh realities of what he saw left him shell-shocked and so in 1952 he moved to New Zealand and settled in Rotorua, which was developing a reputation as the place for modernist painters. He lived locally until his death in 1986 and this exhibition contains many pieces left to the museum by his widow Dora, who died earlier this year. There are not a huge number of his works, but enough to show both his skill and diversity. The portrait used as the poster for the exhibition, though quite small in real life, is incredibly well painted. Unusually you can see the detail of the brush strokes and dabs of lighter paint, which are offset by the dark deep-set eyes.

you can even see the brush strokes

you can even see the brush strokes

There are landscapes, beetles, skeletons, portraits, prints and sketches, revealing Bakkenes as a master of many mediums. There are also musical instruments that he made, showing yet another side to this fascinating local artist whom I had never heard of before my trip.

the unchanging NZ bush

the unchanging NZ bush

My advice, take a trip to Rotorua Museum before the end of November and you will be richly rewarded.

Photo0586Marcus Hobson, regular book reviewer, writer, and now the Secretary of the Tauranga Writers group has joined ARTbop as Literary Editor and book reviewer. I met Marcus at the foodie’s heaven cafe Nourish at Te Puna and instantly decided he was someone who ARTbop “just had to have”. He shared with me his handwritten work in progress and detailed it’s magical and conincidental background. Here’s his autobiographical introduction:-

Marcus has been, and continues to be, lots of things. An aspiring author of both novels and reviews, he has always said he wants to be a writer and 40 years later is making that come true. He has in the past done such varied things as study ancient and mediaeval history at Uni in London, worked as an archaeologist, as an economist in central and southern Africa, and as truck driver in a quarry. About two years ago he relocated to the beautiful Bay from a finance job in Auckland. He is a lover of art, the written word and a full time fanatical book collector, with over 3,000 volumes on his shelves. He lives close to Katikati with his wife and sometimes their three daughters, two cats, a library and the odd chicken. Marcus is currently working on a “factional” work about World War One.

See Marcus in conversation on Altercation the month panel discussion for ARTbop alternativealtercation3

IMG_3650tincanatBarkesCornerIf you would like to contribute your original book reviews to ARTbop WORDS please forward them to for the attention of the Literary Editor Marcus Hobson. We prefer the work is emailed in docx format We appreciate one or two jpg images (not enormous ones as they become an uploading issue for ARTbop)




What’s On @ Rotorua Museum

ROTORUA UkeBox Sunday  20th November 2016 at 3pm Rotorua’s own Thermeles give a short uke performance and then there’s a community uke and sing a long. Entry is free but a gold coin donation is asked to cover UkeBox admin costs.

More information


to 27th November 2016 Dutch migrant Bakkenes was part of the post war European migration to New Zealand and a thriving New Zealand arts community.


to 20th November 2016 57 digitally remastered images of the work of Dutch Master Rembrandt Van Rijn


to 20th November 2016 Recent acquisitions to Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Collection

Rotorua Museum is open daily, 9am to 6pm (Dec – March) or 9am to 5pm (April – Nov), except Christmas Day. Admission is free for Rotorua residents with proof of residency. Adults $20, Seniors (65yrs+) $18, Children (5-15yrs) $8.

For further information please visit or contact Holly Watene Ph 07 351 8290, Email

A Lion in the Meadow & Other Stories by Margaret Mahy” adapted by Tim Bray with songs by Christine White – “magical Mahy” Sunday October 30 and Monday October 31st at Baycourt checkout

Bay of Plenty GARDEN & ART Festival, 17th – 20th November 2016 the tenth Biennial Garden & Art Festival showcasing Katikati, Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Te Puke. A new festival format – a four day festival. Garden trails open from Thursday through to Sunday with one or four day ticket options. The Festival Hub at the Lakes with displays, exhibitions, creative concept spaces and so much more check out


Downtown Tauranga’s outdoor art market November 13 and 27th

Interested in participating you can get information from

and take a look at facebook Left Bank Tauranga

Now established as a major art award: The Molly Morpeth Canaday Aware is open for entries. Entries close on 16th December 2016. Take a look at the website or for more information

And a heads up for Paradox the Street Art Festival coming to Tauranga March to June 2017 –

Make sure you take a look on eventfinda and checkout the local gig guides and event guides in local media for a comprehensive list of what’s happening around the Bay of Plenty.


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