Northern Cemetery Nine Portraits

Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery, opened in 1872, contains more than 17,000 burials, representing a cross-section of the city’s population from its earliest days to the 1930s.

This one-hour trail encompasses the burial sites of nine artists of various kinds from the second half of the 19th century. They include an architect, a portrait painter, an illustrator, a watercolorist, an anatomical draughtsman, a landscape painter, two photographers, and an arts promoter.

The most famous of the nine is the architect Robert Lawson (1833-1902). Lawson designed a number of Dunedin’s most splendid buildings, including First Church, the Municipal Chambers, Larnach Castle and Otago Boys High School. A separate Robert Lawson Trail is also available on this website.

Of the painters, John Irwin (1806-88), working in the English portrait tradition, produced portraits of prominent early settlers, including William Cargill and Thomas Burns. John Buchanan (1819-1898) is famous for his watercolour ‘Milford Sound Looking North-West from Freshwater Basin’ and George O’Brien (1821-1888) for his idyllic neo-Gothic paintings of Dunedin’s urban landscape. William Hodgkins (1833-98) was the father of New Zealand’s most famous woman painter, Frances Hodgkins: he was an amateur artist himself and co-founded the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

The cemetery also contains the burials of two very successful photographers. Alfred Burton (1834?-1914) won wide recognition for his photographs of New Zealand and the South Pacific. Thomas Muir (1853-1930) was the senior partner in the firm Muir and Moodie, which produced a large stock of view postcards.

This trail was produced by the Southern Heritage Trust. Printed brochures of this and several other Northern Cemetery trails are available from the Sexton's Cottage .

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