Painting, 'Mackenzie with Dog Swimming in the Clutha river'; Moffitt, Gilbert Tr...


Painting, 'Mackenzie with Dog Swimming in the Clutha river'

About this object

This artwork titled 'Mackenzie with Dog Swimming in the Clutha River' is one of a series that Trevor Moffitt undertook in the 1960's based on the folk hero James McKenzie and his collie dog named Friday.

James Mackenzie was one of New Zealand’s first and most enduring folk heroes. In March 1855, Mackenzie was discovered with 1,000 sheep from Robert and George Rhodes' station ‘The Levels’, north of Timaru. The station overseer, John Sidebottom, and two Māori shepherds had tracked the missing sheep to a high inland pass in the basin of the upper Waikiki River, where they captured Mackenzie and Friday. He was brought to trial and sentenced to five years hard labour, though, he proved to be a difficult man to contain.

Mackenzie's exploits soon won him the admiration of those on the margins of society. Small would-be farmers wanting their own land or resenting the power of large wealthy landowners could identify with him, as could those who did not fit the mould of genteel Canterbury society.
The exploits of Mackenzie and his loyal dog ‘Friday’ left an indelible mark on the South Island high country and saw a large and picturesque chunk of New Zealand's South Island named after him.

“In 1996 Greg O’Brien in Lands and Deeds: Profiles of Contemporary NZ Painters concluded: “The Mackenzie paintings are an acknowledgement of the underdog and the outsider in colonial New Zealand, striking a similar note to Denis Glover’s poem ‘Arawata Bill’ or James K. Baxter’s play Jack Winter’s Dream. The struggling fallible individual is transformed into hero or mythical figure.” Chris Ronayne, Trevor Moffitt: A Biography (NZ: David Ling Publishing Ltd, 2006), 76.

“While doing some research for the Gold Miners the name of James McKenzie, the legendary sheep-stealer, “kept cropping up in conversations and it fascinated me.” The South Island Mackenzie country was named after McKenzie, the legend, although the spelling is different. For some reason Trevor’s eventual series took the spelling of the region rather than the man’s name.” Chris Ronayne, Trevor Moffitt: A Biography (NZ: David Ling Publishing Ltd, 2006), 61.

Artist Biography:
Born in 1936, Trevor Moffitt grew up in the rural Southland town of Waikaia. He often drew on Southland, its people and its history for inspiration for his art.

A concern that New Zealand was being painted from a European perspective led him to pursue 'this place' through his own style, which placed importance on people as well as the landscape. While many other New Zealand artists at the time tried to pursue nationalism through landscape, Trevor’s interests lay in the interaction between people and the landscape.


Moffitt, Gilbert Trevor

Maker Role


Date Made




Medium and Materials

organic, vegetal, processed materials, wood.
organic, vegetal, processed materials, wood, plywood.
inorganic, processed materials, pigments, oil paints.

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Christchurch

Inscription and Marks

Handwritten in black ink '# 45 MSL, #45 CH CH. Both of the inscriptions have been crossed out with black ink.


h 630 mm x w 580 mm x d 40 mm

Subject and Association Keywords

Art and Design

Subject and Association Keywords

People and Families (including births, weddings, deaths)


Eastern Southland Collection

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

This object is from

Include tags such as place names, people, dates, events and colours. Use commas to separate multiple tags. e.g. Pablo Picasso, Madrid, red, 1930s.