Date of issue: 5 May 2021
Number of stamps: 4 gummed stamps
Denominations: $1.40, $2.70, $3.50, $4.00
Designed and illustraded by: Hannah Fortune, New Zealand Post, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours plus metallic PMS silver and spot varnish
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm (vertical)
Miniature sheet size and format: 80mm x 95mm (vertical)
Paper type: Tullis Russell 106gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 13.33 x 13.6
Period of sale: Unless stocks are exhausted earlier, these stamps will remain on sale until 4 May 2022. First day covers will remain on sale until 30 June 2021.
Sarah Featon, Botanical Artist
Individual stamps included in this set:
Edward Featon’s text equally captures the natural beauty of the white clematis Clematis paniculata:
‘On account of its climbing habit, it is at times impossible to obtain its floral treasures, which, pendant from the highest branches of the stately forest trees, defy all attempts, at the hands of the covetous ones below, to possess them.’
The Art Album classified New Zealand’s flora scientifically, but also offered descriptions of how plants were used in everyday life by both Pākehā and Māori. Edward describes how Māori cultivated Corynocarpus laevigatus as a food, eating the fruits after a lengthy and complex process to remove their toxicity.
Sarah’s stunning depiction of the the kākā beak Clianthus puniceus with its elegant hanging flowers would no doubt have helped inspire a love of New Zealand’s flora. Sadly, this eye-catching shrub remains threatened in the wild.
$4.00 Campbell Island daisy
Sarah Featon painted plants from all over New Zealand, including specimens from the Subantarctic Islands. Pleurophyllum speciosum is known only from the Auckland and Campbell Islands where it grows profusely with other mega-herbs, forming a riot of colour in December and January.
Sarah Ann Featon (née Porter, 1848 – 28 April 1927) was an accomplished botanical artist from New Zealand.
There are few records of Featon’s early life. She was of English origin, born to Henry William Porter, a “gentleman of independent means”, in 1848, probably in London. It is unclear when she arrived in New Zealand but she is recorded as having married Edward Featon at St Paul’s, Auckland in 1870. In 1875 Featon and her husband moved to Gisborne, as Edward had been appointed as the area’s first District Land Officer.
During this time Featon and her husband began work on their seminal work The Art Album of New Zealand Flora. Featon painted the watercolours for the plates while her husband wrote the text. The Featons set out to produce their album to debunk the widely held belief that there were no flowers in New Zealand.
The album was the first full-colour art book to be published in New Zealand. It contained systematic and popular descriptions of the native flowering plants of New Zealand and the adjacent islands, and included information about Māori uses of plants, sourced by Edward from his friend William Colenso. Featon created all of the artwork for the book and commissioned the chromolithography for the book plates from the workshop of Bock and Cousins, Wellington. The album was originally published in three parts, the first part being released in November 1887 and the next two in 1888. The three parts were issued as a single volume in 1889. The book was the first with fully-coloured art to be printed in New Zealand.
A copy of the book was presented by the New Zealand Government to Queen Victoria in 1897 on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. That copy is now in the British Museum.
Reverend William Colenso, a prominent early settler and noted expert on botany, and Archdeacon (later Bishop) W. L . Williams were keen supporters of the book and supplied specimens to Featon to paint. Colenso named a newly discovered species, Dracophyllum featonium, in her honour. This species is now regarded as being synonymous with Dracophyllum strictum.
Featon suffered financial hardship later in life and sold the original artwork for the book to the Dominion Museum – now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa where they continue to be held. She died in Gisborne on 28 April 1927, and was buried at Makaraka Cemetery.The Featons had two children but only a son (Edwin, known as Teddy) is thought to have survived childhood. He later worked for a Hawke’s Bay stock and station firm Williams and Kettle.
Featon’s Flowers Ngā puāwai a Featon
In 1889, botanical artist Sarah Featon and her surveyor husband, Edward Featon, published The Art Album of New Zealand Flora. Forty of Sarah’s exquisite paintings of New Zealand’s native flowering plants were transformed into colour prints to accompany Edward’s lively and occasionally verbose text. Together, they sought to disprove the ‘mistaken notion that New Zealand is particularly destitute of native flowers’.
The book was the first full-colour art book published in New Zealand, and was praised as a ‘colonial work of art’. Firmly grounded in science, it also had popular appeal and shared mātauranga (Māori knowledge). Today, Sarah’s vibrant watercolours are celebrated as works of art in their own right.
In 1919, widowed and financially distressed, Sarah parted with her life’s work. She sold her collection of 134 watercolours of New Zealand’s flowering plants to the Dominion Museum, Te Papa’s predecessor, for only £150.
Sarah Featon gave these paintings the scientific names of flora used at the time, and in some cases te reo Māori (Māori language). Several of these names have changed as knowledge of New Zealand’s flora has evolved. This exhibition uses the current scientific names, and te reo Māori names where available.
Design #1: Puawananga – Clematis indivisa
In 1889 Sarah Featon and her husband Edward Featon published The Art Album of New Zealand Flora, in which they sought to dispute the ‘mistaken notion that New Zealand is peculiarly destitute of native flowers’. While the title emphasises the artistic nature of their enterprise, in the preface they describe the choice they made between selecting a handful of the ‘best and most showy representatives of indigenous flowers’ and publishing them in a ‘haphazard manner, with just a soupcon of descriptive matter to serve as a garnish’ or to ‘accept the responsibility of putting forth a publication of a popular character based on scientific and systematic principles’. They chose the latter path, ensuring that the album had both popular appeal while being firmly grounded in solid science.
This was achieved both through Sarah’s illustrations and Edward’s lively text. Based in Gisborne, Sarah’s drawings were made from specimens sourced far and wide (many of which were collected by women who were acknowledged in the final text). Their project was supported by prominent early settler and expert on botany, William Colenso as well as Thomas Kirk. The accompanying text drew on Hooker’s Flora for the botanical classification, accentuated by Edward’s enthusiastic and occasionally verbose information about potential uses of the plant (or its wood) as well as indigenous knowledge. For example, in the description of the Pohutukawa, he writes ‘the juice of the inner bark is said to possess a medicinal virtue, and the Maoris are accustomed to use it to allay inflammation’. The general nature of the Art Album appealed to reviewers and the public alike, and the publication was deemed likely to be a ‘most valuable acquisition to any art collection, library, or drawing room’. It was praised as a ‘great colonial work of art’. One reviewer expressed ‘surprise that such an artistic, correct, and beautiful work should have been wholly produced in New Zealand’. Indeed, it was so prized that a copy, enclosed in a casket of New Zealand wood, was gifted to Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The Featons collaborated with the Wellington firm Bock & Cousins to publish the first fully coloured art book in New Zealand, using the relatively new medium of chromolithography, which almost bankrupted the firm. The transition from watercolour to colour lithograph involved compromise, and the result in many of Featon’s works is an occasionally garish rendering of her exquisite watercolours.
134 of Sarah Featon’s original watercolours for the Art Album of New Zealand Flora were purchased for the Dominion Museum in 1919. At that time, Featon was widowed and desperately short of funds. The £150 she was eventually reimbursed for her collection likely only went a short way to ease the future finances of her family.
The Art Album comprised 40 colour plates, including a magnificent frontispiece. An intended second volume was never published.
Dr Rebecca Rice, March 2019
Edward and Sarah Featon, Art Album of New Zealand Flora, Wellington: Bock and Cousins, 1888.
Bee Dawson, Lady painters: the flower painters of early New Zealand, Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999.
‘Art Album of New Zealand Flora’, Otago Daily Times, supplement, 18 February 1890, p. 2.
New Zealand Times, 7 December 1887, p. 4
‘Art album of New Zealand flora’, The Observer, 18 May 1889, p. 4.
Design #2: Karaka
Design #3: Kowhai-ngutu-kaka. Clianthus puniceus
Name: Kowhai-ngutu-kaka. Clianthus puniceus
Production: Sarah Featon; artist; circa 1885; New Zealand
Material Summary: watercolour
Dimensions Image: 240mm (width), 288mm (height)
Registration Number: 1992-0035-2277/71
Design #4: Campbell Island Daisy
Name: Antarctic daisy
Production: Sarah Featon; circa 1885; New Zealand
Material Summary: watercolour
Registration Number: 1992-0035-2277/95
Gisborne’s ‘unsung national treasure’
Stamps due to be released by NZ Post next month and a Tairawhiti Museum exhibition scheduled for 2022 focusing on 19th century Gisborne artist Sarah Ann Featon indicates she was a woman of stature. Why was that so? The Gisborne Herald’s Wynsley Wrigley finds out courtesy of Gisborne historian-researcher Jean Johnston and NZ Post . . .
Sarah Ann Featon may be unknown in Gisborne today.
But in the late nineteenth century, the Gisborne botanical artist was a best-seller, a prominent citizen in the community, and had her work presented to Queen Victoria.
The watercolour artist will have some of her work featured on stamps to be released by NZ Post on May 5.
During the 1870s and 1880s from their home in Customhouse Street, Mrs Featon and her surveyor husband, Edward, took on the challenge to disprove “the mistaken notion that New Zealand is particularly destitute of native flowers”.
They published a book featuring 40 watercolours of New Zealand’s flowering plants along with text written by Edward.Four of the watercolours have been chosen by NZ Post.
The book entitled Art Album of New Zealand Flora, the first full-colour art book ever published in the country in January 1889, was a best-seller.
It was marketed as a coloured illustrative version of Sir Joseph Hooper’s Handbook of New Zealand Flora which had been the standard scientific reference for more than 20 years.
It uniquely shared matauranga (Maori knowledge) of the plants.
The book was praised as a “colonial work of art” and a copy was sent to Queen Victoria in 1897 to mark 60 years of her reign.
Copies can be accessed in the HB Williams Memorial Library and in the collection of Tairawhiti Museum.
In 1919, widowed and in need of extra finances, Mrs Featon reluctantly parted with her life’s work.
She sold her collection of 134 watercolours of New Zealand’s flowering plants to the Dominion Museum, Te Papa’s predecessor, for only £150.
NZ Post stamps and collectables programme and content manager Lynette Townsend said the Gisborne artist was an “unsung national treasure”.
“We not only create a stunningly-beautiful set of stamps but also highlight the work of a talented and relatively unknown artist.
“The images selected were chosen in collaboration with Te Papa curators who picked their favourites based on research interests, aesthetic appeal, and a desire to present an interesting and varied mix of New Zealand plant specimens.
“We also took into account practicalities such as the size of stamps and which illustration would or wouldn’t work well on these tiny canvases. Wherever possible, we aimed to accurately represent the original watercolours.”
The collectable stamp programme at NZ Post is influenced by a broad range of factors.
“Those include commemorative events, a desire to create stamp sets that appeal to our loyal collectors, and an aspiration to produce a well-curated, diverse range of stamps that reflect our history, culture, our past, present and future. No stamp is ever printed without a reason.”
Te Papa held a small exhibition of Sarah Featon’s work in 2019, and Tairawhiti Museum will host an exhibition next year.
Research and a publication on her life is also under way.
Gisborne historian-researcher Jean Johnston said Sarah and Edward Featon and their son came to Gisborne in 1875.
They both came from the same part of London and it is likely that Edward knew Sarah’s uncle who had a navigational instrument business.
Edward emigrated to Auckland in 1860 as a 19-year-old with his father, stepmother and his brother John.
He was employed as a navigational instrument maker and optician and joined the Onehunga Naval Volunteers in 1863 and later the Auckland Naval Volunteers.
In 1869, acting on government orders, he led a contingent of men with a 6-pound Armstrong gun in the defence of colonial Tauranga which was being threatened by Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and his followers.
He was appointed Captain in the Auckland Military Volunteers, resigning his commission to join the Lands and Survey Department in 1874.
Edward Featon was awarded the New Zealand War medal.
He continued his voluntary military service in Gisborne with the formation of the Cook County Artillery Corps that merged into J Battery of New Zealand Artillery Volunteers. He served as instructor and Sergeant-Major, and then as Quartermaster-Sergeant when the Volunteers made their way towards Opotiki in 1889 at the time of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki’s possible return to the Gisborne district.
He was awarded a Long Service Colonial Medal for his services as a volunteer.
Success of album reported throughout NZ
Sarah Ann Porter was born in 1847 and was the eldest of four children of Henry William Porter and Sarah Hannah Porter. Henry was a licensed victualler (publican).
Sarah Ann Porter arrived in Auckland on January 29, 1870 on the maiden voyage of the sailing ship City of Auckland and married Edward Featon in St Paul’s Church, Auckland.
The couple had a daughter, Sarah Ann, who died as an infant and son Edward Victor who was born in 1872.
Mrs Johnston said it has been suggested by Sarah’s granddaughter that Sarah was encouraged to paint by an uncle who was interested in art.
The Featons’ botanical project took many years and they had the support of another botanist, missionary William Colenso, as well as Gisborne-based Archdeacon W. Leonard Williams who would send or drop in specimens to add to the collection.
Edward, in his surveying work, also collected flowering plants and noted the growing conditions of each specimen.
With an interest in literature, in 1877, Edward Featon — in conjunction with Josiah Sigley — organised the Turanganui Public Library and for 15 years was a member of its committee including taking on the role of treasurer.
He helped in the establishment of the first library building in Lowe Street.
The library committee also arranged industrial and fine arts exhibitions in the new library and Sarah Featon entered in a number of categories.
The success of the Featons’ Art Album of New Zealand Flora was reported throughout the country and they travelled to Dunedin to exhibit and promote their work in the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition held during 1889 and 1890.
The family moved to 107 Disraeli Street and as E. H. Featon and Son, Manufacturers, made products for sale including, Surpho-Carbol Dip for dressing sheepskins, bonedust (pure) for pastures and gardens, Winter Dressing for painting and spraying fruit trees, and Cleanser Brand, a sanitary soap.
Sarah Featon continued her interest in botanical art and painted throughout her life.
She is remembered by a granddaughter as a tall, alert, elderly lady of determined character, who was continually occupied with painting, leaf pressing, sewing, the making of model Maori villages, and other handcrafts.
The National Library of New Zealand also purchased some of her later paintings from her granddaughter during the 1970s.
Sarah died on April 28, 1927, aged 79, and was buried in Makaraka Cemetery alongside her husband Edward who had died in 1909.
They were survived by their son Edward Victor who married Emily Deason Robinson in 1915 and their two granddaughters, Constance Sarah Isabella Featon and Emily Pearl Featon.
‘ Tairawhiti Museum is seeking more information about Sarah and Edward Featon. Please get in touch with the museum if you are able to help with any images or further information.