John Middleditch

b. 1906d. 1987

John Middleditch was born in Dunedin and attended Dunedin Technical College. There he learnt blacksmithing, engineering, drawing and draughting, which added to the training in wood carving he had acquired as a school student. During the depression he went gold mining in Central Otago and then worked as an engineering draughtsman. Between 1945 and 1956 he completed night classes at the Dunedin School of Art, while working as a draughtsman for McSkimming Industries.

He was a member of the “New Group,” an exhibiting collective of five Dunedin artists formed in 1950 who held regular exhibitions until 1959. In the late 1950s Middleditch moved to Andersons Bay, where he set up a studio, becoming one of the country’s few full-time sculptors in 1962.

In 1966 he travelled extensively in Europe. While in Italy he worked on many symbolic drawings of scorpions. From 1966 to 1968 he developed the scorpion drawings into a sculpture series, as well as a brain-fever bird series, the winged aggression series and the fallen flight series.

During the 1970s Middleditch reviewed art exhibitions for the Otago Daily Times and also took children’s art classes. He was one of two recipients of a New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Award in 1982, taking the award ahead of more than 200 other artists.

His work has been exhibited widely in New Zealand and overseas and is represented in many public galleries and private collections in the United States, France, West Germany, Australia and New Zealand. His wife, Mary Middleditch, was a mosaic artist and watercolourist and was artistic adviser to the Globe Theatre in the mid-1970s.

See also:

John Middleditch, ‘Eleven Bronze Rods supporting Albatross Wingspan’ (1969), University of Otago, Ōtepoti Dunedin

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021