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Wardle, Arthur (English, b.1864, d.1949)
Where the Ice King Reigns
oil on canvas
990 x 1500 mm sight size; 1270 x 1774 mm frame size
1-1920
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1920 with funds from the Peter Smeaton Bequest.
In 1919 the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, received, out of the blue, its most significant bequest to date – the sum of £10,000 (more than $1 million today) from Dunedin accountant Peter Smeaton. The bequest stipulated that the income from the capital was to be used to buy pictures for the collection and that, for the first 20 years, these were to be British.
Where the Ice King Reigns, purchased in 1920, has the honour of being the first work bought using Smeaton’s generous bequest. Known for his pastel drawings and paintings of domestic and wild animals and sporting subjects, Wardle exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1880 to 1935. A glowing article about his pastel drawings of animals appeared in the June 1916 issue of Studio Magazine, a publication to which the Gallery subscribed, and this may have inspired the purchase.
The painting is one of two by Wardle in the collection depicting wild animal subjects, behaving characteristically in their natural environments: the artist was praised for his ability to capture this quality in his art. The dramatic title, Where the Ice King Reigns, suggests a narrative beyond the painting, and arouses a set of emotions appropriate for such a powerful predator – wild and untameable, all tooth and claw and supremely adapted to the harsh environment in which it lives.

not on view

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