Red Dawn

Kay, Robin
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Robin Kay (1919-2017) is one of New Zealand’s foremost watercolourists. He had been an artist member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts since 1938, serving for twenty-one years on the Academy Council, and was a member of Watercolour New Zealand since it was founded in 1975. Largely self-taught, Kay regularly painted well into his 90’s.

Robin Kay combined his skills and talent as a soldier, historian and artist to capture the battlefields of the Middle East during WWII. While not technically an official war artist – there was only one of those in that region and that was his friend Peter McIntyre - many of Kay's paintings from the war are now in the country's national art collections. His official role was as an archivist while stationed in the Middle East during the war years. Concerned that the official war artists had not managed to create enough war art Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg had Kay dispatched with a driver and a cook to paint the Egyptian and Libyan battle scenes. These paintings are preserved as Official War Art in Archives New Zealand.

While Kay was away at war, his first solo exhibition of watercolours was held in Wellington, without him even knowing about it. He had been sending his unofficial paintings back to his family rolled up inside army magazines which prompted his father to arrange for them to be shown.

He went on to become an historian with the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs where he penned several official histories.

Kay’s paintings have been purchased by the National Art Gallery (now Te Papa), Archives New Zealand, the Turnbull Library, US President Lyndon B. Johnson, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake and former Governor-Generals. Along with a string of awards for his paintings, he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008 for services to art and military history.
Relief print with printing inks, on smooth wove paper
Image: hxw; 355 x 480mm
Frame: hxw; 565 x 775 x 35mm
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