Publication Details

Barwell, G, Percy Grainger and the early collecting of Polynesian Music, Journal of New Zealand Studies, 2-3, 2005, p 1-17.


My interest in the Australian musician and composer, Percy Grainger, and his connections with the early collecting of Polynesian music, began when I visited the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. I saw there a portrait of Grainger painted in oils in 1941 by Ella Ström, Grainger’s wife. The three-quarter length portrait shows Grainger dressed in a short bolero-style jacket of towel-like material with elbow-length sleeves over a blue shirt, and what appears to be a skirt of khaki fabric at the waist and towel material below in a pattern of brown and white reminiscent of Maori design. Grainger faces the viewer with his right hand resting on the edge of a piece of furniture, and his left hand on his hip. In the upper left is a Maori carving, possibly a figure from the gable of a house, or a post top, signalling the inspiration for his clothing. His pose and the portrait title, Laird of Art, point back to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century portraits of landed gentry.