Key leads tributes to Dame Doreen Blumhardt

Last updated 05:00 20/10/2009

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One of New Zealand's most distinguished artists, who donated her $1.5 million collection to the NewDowse gallery in Lower Hutt, has died.

Dame Doreen Blumhardt died on Saturday, aged 95.

Dame Doreen, one of the country's foremost ceramicists and art educators for 70 years, was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand in 2006, the highest honour available to living New Zealanders. Only 20 people can be members at any given time.

She became a dame in August, after the title was reinstated.

Prime Minister John Key paid tribute to her yesterday, saying: "New Zealand art is richer for her commitment and achievements."

She set up the Blumhardt Foundation in 2003, which helped with the redevelopment of the NewDowse, which she said was the perfect home for her extensive collection.

"I've been all around the world and I've got pottery from Japan and Mexico and all sorts of places – and New Zealand should have the benefit of it, rather than seeing it dispersed and lost to the country."

The Blumhardt Gallery in the NewDowse is named for her, and is dedicated to showcasing decorative art.

NewDowse director Cam McCracken said her foundation had helped to set up a unique opportunity for young curators to learn the trade in a hands-on manner.

"She was a pioneering practitioner and educator and her influence just can't be over-estimated."

A service will be held for Dame Doreen at Old St Paul's on Thursday.

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- The Dominion Post

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