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Christopher Aubrey made his living painting some of our country’s most iconic scenery. He travelled around New Zealand from the 1870s to 1905, staying in hotels and on back country stations, sometimes leaving sketches in return for hospitality. Very little is known about the man himself. His signed and dated paintings give the only clues on where he went before he disappeared from historical records without a trace.

Aubrey visited Taranaki in 1896. The delicate and detailed paintings he made on his visit provide a record of the developing region and an optimistic view of colonial life. But what was life really like here at that time?

Visit the exhibition to see nine scenes from the Puke Ariki Heritage Collection that Aubrey painted during his visit, on display together for the first time. Listen to stories from local newspapers that bring 1896 to life and examine a panorama of New Plymouth from the same year.

Then, scan QR codes in the gallery to explore more. Discover the history of each location Aubrey painted through a collection of interactive online displays that feature information, historic images, and before and after photographs of some of Taranaki’s most loved spots, from Inglewood through to Waitara. Or take an interactive tour of the panorama highlighting the stories of many of New Plymouth’s now lost heritage buildings.



16 April 2021 - 15 August 2021
Lane Gallery, Level 2 Puke Ariki Library
Building Map
Free entry
All ages
Audio descriptions for each painting are available through QR codes in the exhibition (bring your own device and headphones) or click ‘Behind the Paintings’ below.

Behind the Paintings

A picture paints a thousand words, but what else can we learn about the places Christopher Aubrey captured with his brush?

Discover more about these Taranaki locations through our interactive online stories. You will be delighted and fascinated by the tales we've uncovered.

Behind the Paintings


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1896 New Plymouth Panorama

A lot has changed in New Plymouth since 1896.  Explore this panorama taken from Marsland Hill in the same year that Aubrey was capturing the countryside.

Discover historic locations that once lined the streets of New Plymouth and see our current landmarks and streets on the image.

1896 New Plymouth Panorama