A descendant of Henry Sarjeant the founding benefactor of Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery has joined a number of modern day benefactors committed to seeing the landmark gallery restored to its former glory and the collection re-housed back on the historic Queens Park site.
Judith Anderson, who is a great, great niece of Henry Sarjeant, donated $30,000 to the re-development after a recent tour of the original gallery. She also viewed works from the extensive Sarjeant collection – currently housed in Sarjeant on the Quay – a temporary gallery space in Whanganui.
Judith, who has lived in London for nearly 40 years, says touring the original gallery founded by her great, great uncle and seeing the depth and breadth of the collection was moving. She was also inspired by the enthusiasm and expertise of the gallery curators. “I didn’t go with any intention of making a donation, but I was very impressed with what is planned and can see it is a hugely worthwhile enterprise. I also felt very proud to be a descendant of someone who had the foresight and generosity to finance the gallery and the collection and feel very proud to be able to offer some support to the re-development.”
Her grandmother Celia Wilson, nee Sarjeant – a niece of Henry Sarjeant – was born in Whanganui in 1869 but moved to Auckland some years after she married. “My mother had occasionally mentioned the gallery and her great uncle Henry so we knew about it but didn’t get down to Whanganui very much,” says Judith.
Her visit to Whanganui during the recent New Zealand visit came about through Auckland friends, Elaine and Rod Ellis-Pegler, with whom she was staying. “Quite by chance, their niece Jo Pegler had been an artist in residence at the Sarjeant,” says Judith. “She still lives in Whanganui and arranged for us to be shown through the old art gallery and the temporary gallery where the collection is housed.”
Judith, who is now in her mid-70s, says she had no plans to make a return visit to New Zealand. However a desire to see the completed redevelopment may see her taking up an invitation from the Sarjeant Gallery Trust to attend the opening of the restored and developed Sarjeant Gallery – during its centennial celebrations in 2019.