Story: Barraud, Charles Decimus

Page 1 - Barraud, Charles Decimus

Barraud, Charles Decimus

1822–1897

Pharmacist, artist

This biography was written by Robin Kay and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990

Charles Decimus Barraud was born in Camberwell, London, England, on 9 May 1822, the 10th child (of 12) of William Francis Barraud and his wife, Sophia Hull. Barraud wanted to become a doctor, but his father, a clerk in the Custom House, London, died when Charles was only 11 years old and his family could not afford the expensive training. He had to content himself with qualifying as a chemist and druggist. He practised in Southampton. On 17 March 1849 at St Lawrence's Church, Southampton, he married Sarah Maria Style. Charles and Sarah had six sons and three daughters. Soon after their marriage they were encouraged to emigrate to New Zealand by Judge H. S. Chapman, Charles's cousin by marriage. They sailed in the Pilgrim and arrived at Wellington on 20 August 1849. Chapman lent the Barrauds a cottage near his house, Homewood, in the hills of Karori, while their home, Fernglen, was being built on The Terrace.

Barraud established himself as a chemist, with a shop in Lambton Quay. Meanwhile he also pursued his interest in painting. He was an enthusiastic amateur, and among his French Huguenot ancestors were many artists and craftsmen. Three of his brothers were artists (two had had formal training and exhibited at the Royal Academy) and they probably influenced their younger brother. His business prospered sufficiently to enable him to take time off to travel to all parts of New Zealand to sketch and paint. In the 1860s he built a tiny octagonal shop called the Pill Box at the corner of Manners and Herbert streets, and he also opened branches in Napier and Wanganui. After his eldest son, William Francis (Frank), entered the business, Charles was able to spend some time in England from 1875 to 1877. By 1880 Barraud and Son had a pharmacy at the corner of Molesworth and Hill streets in Wellington.

In 1879 Barraud called the meeting which led to the formation of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand and was its first president. He had seen the need for legislation to set standards in pharmacy, to protect public health and the reputation of qualified pharmacists against the dangers of uneducated persons dispensing and selling medicines. In 1881 he became the president of the Pharmacy Board, created under the Pharmacy Act 1880, with the power to register pharmacists, thereby ensuring standards of practice. When his pharmacy in Lambton Quay was destroyed by fire for the second time, in 1887, he retired and devoted himself fully to art.

Barraud won early recognition as an artist in New Zealand, and his paintings from 1850 onwards are of considerable historical value. He worked mostly in watercolours but also produced a few oils. He did portraits of the Maori chiefs Honiana Te Puni-kokopu and Te Rangihaeata. His 1853 oil 'Baptism of the Maori chief Te Puni in Otaki Church', in the Rex Nan Kivell Collection in the National Library of Australia, Canberra, was commissioned by the governor, George Grey, presumably to illustrate his claims of success in his policy of assimilation of the Maori people. The painting depicts the baptism of Te Puni by Archdeacon Octavius Hadfield in the presence of Maori notables and Sir George and Lady Grey in the Rangiatea Church at Otaki. The ceremony actually took place in Wellington. One of Barraud's best-known pictures, 'Interior of Otaké Church', reproduced as a lithograph by R. K. Thomas, shows the interior of Rangiatea.

From his many sketches done in the field Barraud worked up paintings on a larger scale. He took to England a selection which was reproduced in the portfolio New Zealand: graphic and descriptive, published in London in 1877. It contains a total of 74 chromolithographs, uncoloured lithographs and woodcuts, with an accompanying text by W. T. L. Travers, a lawyer, politician and naturalist. The lithographer was C. F. Kell.

Much of the original character of Barraud's paintings was lost in the transition to chromolithography, through the anglicising of the New Zealand landscape by the English lithographer. This may be one reason why the reputation which he enjoyed in his lifetime suffered a partial eclipse in later years. Recently esteem for his work has grown, with increased demand among collectors who invest in paintings of his period. In 1984 his oil 'Southern Alps and lake with colonial explorers in foreground' sold for NZ$21,000 at an auction in Wellington.

Barraud was the principal founder of the Fine Arts Association established in 1882. He succeeded William Beetham as its president two years later. In 1889, when the association was renamed the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, he became president and held the office until his death. It was largely due to his untiring efforts that the academy's first gallery, the forerunner of the National Art Gallery, was built in Whitmore Street, Wellington, in 1892. Three of his children were amateur artists. Two of them, Edward Noel and William Francis, assisted at the academy as secretary and treasurer between 1882 and 1900.

In addition to his important contributions in the fields of pharmacy and art, Barraud was chairman of the Wellington Sailors' Rest and treasurer of the Wellington Hospital Convalescent Fund. For many years he was a churchwarden and vestryman at the Anglican church, St Paul's, and took a keen interest in the erection of the second building in Mulgrave Street, now known as Old St Paul's, opened in 1864. He painted the illuminated texts which adorn the nave. Barraud died in Wellington on 26 December 1897 and was buried in the Bolton Street cemetery, after a service in St Paul's Church.