Frans Baetens and Magda Van Gils came to New Zealand in 1983 and started lithographic printing in Auckland, opening their own workshop the following year. They called it the Muka Studio taking the name from the Maori word for 'flax'.
In 1985 they bought Tony Fomison's house in Auckland and, with the instigation of Tony Fomison and Pat Hanly, they also started a Gallery. The Muka Studio Gallery soon had over 50 well-known artists exhibiting and working in lithography with them.
The Muka Studio created a special set of children's prints from Muka artists. School children were invited to come to the Gallery to learn about the lithographic process and, if they wish, to purchase a small print by a significant New Zealand artist for the incredible price of only $30. This was a unique opportunity for children to begin their own art collection.
Robert Ellis (1929 – 2021) studied at Northampton School of Art from 1944 to 1947, before completing his National Service with the photographic unit of RAF Bomber Command between 1947 and 1949. In 1949 he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Art, London. Next came a move to New Zealand in 1959 to take up a position as lecturer in design at Elam School of Fine Arts.
His landscape paintings address themes of urbanisation, subdivision and colonisation. Auckland Art Gallery senior curator Ron Brownson describes Ellis's place in modern New Zealand art: "As a major figure, Ellis' art addresses many cultural issues. His subjects range over tensions between transport and urbanism, contrast ecology with spirituality and look at the on-going nature of Māori–Pākehā relations."
Throughout his career Ellis produced a diverse range of works. They include paintings and works on paper, and also stained glass (design of the east wall of the nave in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell), tapestry (the largest in the world at the time, and now in the Aotea Centre, Auckland).
Image Dimensions: 160mm W x 270mm H
Framed Dimensions: 325mm W x 435mm H