'It's a very good copy but it's a fake'

02:48, Mar 12 2013
Rebe Mason
Authentic Lindauer: Rebe Mason granddaughter of famous artists, Gottfried Lindauer, talks about a new documentary on Maori TV.

When the authenticity of a purported 120-year-old Gottfried Lindauer painting of a Waikato chief was brought into question, the artist's grand-daughter immediately saw it was a fake.

Trust Waikato bought the painting at auction for $121,000 from the International Arts Centre in Auckland in 2001 and had forensic tests done on it after Whanganui art expert Peter Ireland questioned the age of the portrait.

''The first thing I did when I saw it, I thought he looked anaemic,'' said Lindauer's grand-daughter Rebe Mason.

Mrs Mason watched the story unfold from her Hamilton home as the painting of Tainui chief Kewene Te Haho was debated last year.

''It's a very good copy but it's a fake... I don't know if people believe me or not,'' she said. ''It's the whole feel of the thing.''

Mrs Mason was born three years after the death of her grandfather but said her home was filled with stories of the famous painter and photographer.

''My mother told me a lot and my dad was wonderful. He used to tell stories and in those days of no TVs... he used to tell stories and sing songs in German and French and then he'd tell us about his dad. It was wonderful.''

Lindauer paintings were always a feature of the family home and Mrs Mason grew up studying and admiring portraits that hung upon the walls.

''Always in our house we had four paintings - two Maori chiefs and two Maori women. We've always had paintings and we've always had stories about them.''

Hanging on the wall of Mrs Mason's home is a print of Lindauer's Ana Rupene and Huriaafter the original was burnt in a house fire in 1985. Next to it is a Lindauer copy of Cowper's Niece and in the hallway hangs a Lindauer self-portrait.

Lindauer arrived in New Zealand in 1874 to avoid a second conscription into the Austrian Army. He planned to sail to America but boarded the wrong boat and landed in Wellington instead Mrs Mason said.

Fascinated by the Maori people he learned English and travelled extensively throughout the country painting, taking plaster casts of tattooed faces and taking photographs.

''The Maori just loved it and there was this communication between them even if they couldn't speak and he couldn't speak, he was doing something that was out of the world for them.''

A new documentary on the life and works of Gottfried Lindauer will air on Maori Television and looks into the lives of Lindauer's subjects including Maori King Tawhiao Te Wherowhero.

Behind the Brushairs on Tuesday night from March 19.