Charles Frederick Goldie, OBE (1870-1947) was a well-known New Zealand artist, famous for his portrayal of Māori dignitaries.
Goldie was born in Auckland on 20 October 1870. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Charles Frederick Partington, who built the landmark Auckland windmill. His father, David Goldie, was a prominent timber merchant and politician, and a strict Primitive Methodist who resigned as Mayor of Auckland rather than toast the visiting Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York with alcohol. His mother, Maria Partington, was an amateur artist and encouraged his artistic ability. Goldie was educated at Auckland Grammar School, and while still at school won several prizes from the Auckland Society of Arts and the New Zealand Art Students' Association. Goldie studied art part-time under Louis John Steele, after leaving school to work in his father's business. Sir George Grey was impressed by two of Goldie's still-life paintings that were being exhibited at the Auckland Academy of Art (Steele's art society, of which Goldie was honorary secretary) in 1891, and he talked David Goldie into permitting his son to undertake further art training abroad.
Goldie went to Paris to study at the famous Académie Julian. This was a conservative institution, resistant to Impressionism and the avant-garde, and Goldie received a strong grounding in traditional, formal drawing and painting.He returned to NZ in 1898 and established the "French Academy of Art" with Louis J. Steele, who had been his tutor prior to his departure. They collaborated on the large painting The Arrival of the Māoris in New Zealand , based on Géricault's Raft of the Medusa and depicting exhausted, starved and stormtossed Polynesian mariners sighting land at last. It has been criticised as historically inaccurate (even in terms of contemporary anthropological knowledge), both in the appearance of the crew and their vessel and in the situation of near-shipwreck depicted. However, it was widely praised at the time.
Goldie and Steele parted ways not long afterwards and Goldie established his own studio. From 1901 he made field trips to meet, sketch and photograph Māori people in their own locations, and he also paid Māori visitors to Auckland to sit for him. Most of these were chiefs visiting the Native Land Court.By far the majority of Goldie's subjects were elderly, tattooed Māori of considerable standing in their own society. (The practice of tattooing (Tā moko) was no longer current at the time, and the remaining examples were mostly elderly; it was also a practice largely confined to high-status individuals.)
Goldie's work has been criticised as "racist", and certainly he held the Victorian attitudes he had grown up with that the Māori were a "dying race" and in many ways inferior to Europeans. However, many Māori value his images of their ancestors highly. Despite some critics considering them "not art", on the rare occasions they are offered for sale they fetch high prices, among the highest for New Zealand paintings. In March 2008, a price of NZ$400,000 (NZ$454,000 including buyer's premium) was paid at an International Art Centre auction in Auckland for a work entitled "Hori Pokai - Sleep, 'tis a gentle thing. Prior to that, a price of NZ$530,000 (NZ$589,625 including buyer's premium) was achieved for a Goldie work in an online auction conducted by Fisher Galleries. On 19 November 2010 opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sold the oil on canvas, Forty Winks, a portrait of Rutene Te Uamairangi, for the record price of $573,000. This is the the highest price paid for a painting at auction in New Zealand. Many are held in public collections, including the Auckland Art Gallery, the Auckland Institute and Museum, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. There is an ongoing controversy about the reproduction of Goldie's paintings of Maori that are held in public collections as prints for commercial sale.
Goldie's later work was largely from photographs, as his elderly models had died. Rumours that these paintings were produced with the help of a mechanical projection system are not bourne out by a comparison of the photographs with the paintings, though this shortcut was apparently practiced by Gottfried Lindauer, the other New Zealand artist well-known for Māori portraits. Goldie's health eventually deteriorated through a combination of lead poisoning (from the lead white used to prepare his canvases) and alcoholism. He died on 11 July 1947.
The convicted art forger Karl Sim changed his name legally to Carl Feodor Goldie in the 1980s in order to be able to "legitimately" sign his Goldie copies "C.F. Goldie". He no longer tries to pass them off as by the original C.F. Goldie, however. He published an autobiography with Tim Wilson in 2003 called Good as Goldie.