Peter McIntyre

b. 1910d. 1995

Peter McIntyre was born in Dunedin. His father, also Peter, was a lithographic artist. In addition to his father’s painting advice, McIntyre received lessons from the Dunedin artist Alfred O’Keeffe.

Though he began a BA degree at the University of Otago in 1930, he left for England shortly after, taking up a BFA at the Slade School of Fine Art, graduating with prizes in composition and figure drawing in 1934.

From 1935 until 1939 he worked as a free-lance commercial artist while also exhibiting his original work influenced by the English avant-garde and French Cubism. McIntyre' expatriate modernism groups him with other New Zealanders, such as Frances Hodgkins and Len Lye.

In 1939 McIntyre enlisted with the New Zealand Army and was sent to Egypt where he produced illustrations for the war magazine Parade, and sketched fellow soldiers. Between January 1941 and 1945 McIntyre was New Zealand’s official war artist, recording the activities of 2NZEF in Crete, North Africa, and at Cassino in Italy, where he was promoted to Major. His work was exhibited in Europe and New Zealand and reproduced in several magazines making him a household name.

Returning from the war McIntyre became the country’s only full-time painter, securing income producing portraits and landscapes, continuing in the romantic realist style he had adopted during the war. In 1949 he moved to Wellington and his reputation began to flourish. From 1959 to 1964 McIntyre served on the council of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1957 and 1959 he visited Antarctica and by the early 1960s he had won several national art competitions. Between 1962 and 1981 McIntyre published eight books of writings and illustrations. While he was able to maintain popularity with the general public, the movement toward Modernism put McIntyre’s work increasingly at odds with local art criticism.

Just before his death in 1995 an exhibition of his war paintings was hosted by City Gallery in Wellington. The 22,000 exhibition visitors attest to his continuing appeal.

See also:

Peter McIntyre, Untitled (mural) (1959) Hall of Memories, Hastings Library, Heretaunga Hastings.

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