Avondale's acclaimed landscape artist
By Lisa Truttman
William Allen Bollard was born, according to one family tree, 25 April 1869. His father was John Bollard, and his mother Jane née Ganley. John Bollard had an 86-acre farm on Rosebank beside the river leased from William Innes Taylor since 1863.
As a boy, William would have attended the Whau School in the public hall opposite the Presbyterian Church.
As a teenager, he developed a flair for the artistic, and was apprenticed to John Henderson in Wyndham Street in the City. Henderson’s “Decorative Establishment” boasted services in painting, glazing, paperhanging, artistic decorating, and signwriting.
But William also studied under the tutelage of artist Kennett Watkins, master of the Auckland Free School of Art in 1880, and president of the NZ Art Students Association in 1884. Watkins was known for his landscape paintings, and this would later be William Bollard’s main theme of work.
At 18 years of age, two of William’s works - a view of J M Alexander’s Mt Albert residence, and John Henderson’s Ponsonby home - were put upon display in the window of Phillipps and Sons in Queen Street. They were described in the NZ Herald of 25 August 1888 as “equal in distinctness of lines to photographs.”
By June the following year, aged 19, William entered into a partnership with signwriter and decorator Robert Henry Froude; ‘Bollard & Froude’ began to advertise their business as “signwriters, decorators and gilders,” “paintings of New Zealand scenery always on hand. Pictures mounted and framed,” at 177 Queen Street.
In 1891, William married Harriet Sankey, and the couple would have one son: John Henry Allen Bollard, born 22 June 1893. Sadly, Harriet passed away just weeks later, and was buried in Rosebank Cemetery.
Bollard & Froude worked on the signwriting for commercial premises in central Auckland, and as a highlight were appointed the official signwriters for the Auckland Industrial Exhibition of 1896. In 1899 however, they parted ways, Froude buying William Bollard’s interest in the business. Froude carried on the business in his own name until he went bankrupt in 1913.
William Bollard, however, became involved with the Auckland Society of Arts, exhibiting his work at their shows but also attracting criticism from the press such as “not as good as his work of several years back.”
By 1904, he shifted to Dunedin, where he set up a studio. There, two of his paintings exhibited in the window of the Dresden Piano Company shop attracted much more favourable comment, said to “attract attention on account of their effective treatment and harmonious colouring.”
By 1906, his work was exhibited and auctioned at McCormick & Pugh’s Art Gallery in the city.
In 1910 he married for the second time, to Emma Hawkins Meadowcroft. The couple would have two children, Margaret Jane Ganley Bollard in 1911, and Albert Ernest Bollard in 1912. Emma, though, died 14 June 1915, aged only 37.
There was more sad news just over a year later – his first son John was killed by shellfire in action in France 25 September 1916. The shell blast flung John 60 feet into the air. When his body was recovered, it was described as badly mangled, with the clothes stripped away by the blast. John Henry Allen Bollard’s name is included on the marble roll of honour prepared by Avondale Primary as a past-pupil of the school.
When William Bollard died in 1941, the Dunedin Evening Star printed a considerable obituary:
A familiar and popular figure to many Dunedin citizens passed away suddenly on Saturday in the person of Mr William Allen Bollard, the well-known landscape painter and teacher of art. Deceased, who was in his seventy-third year, was one of the best known artists not only in Dunedin, but also in many other parts of New Zealand, and landscapes from his brush are to be seen in many different parts of the country …
For the past 40 years he was a regular exhibitor at all the exhibitions of the Otago Art Society, and his landscapes, characteristic in their broad and colourful treatment, were always a source of interest to visitors. Mostly his subjects were local beauty spots, with which he had a very intimate acquaintance, and his style and manner on canvas became readily recognisable.
Though he has left in pictorial record many charming views of Otago landscape, he was also fond of the picturesque country of the northern Maori, which he knew in earlier years, and sometimes used his brush effectively in such scenes.
“Mr Bollard possessed the individuality of the artist to a marked degree, and this was reflected in all his work, specimens of which will be greatly missed at future exhibitions of the Otago Art Society, with which he was connected for so long. In oil and water colour he was equally at home, using both, confidently and convincingly.
Three of his pictures of Dominion scenes are hanging in New Zealand House, London, and work from his brush is to be seen in hundreds of Dunedin homes.