17 Aug 2015

NZ artist donates $100k painting to Scottish gallery

4:12 pm on 17 August 2015

A New Zealand artist has donated a painting worth tens of thousands of dollars to the city of Dundee in Scotland.

Auckland-born Ron Stenberg, 96, has donated his painting Two Auld Wifies, which he painted in 1982, to the McManus Galleries.

The painting shows two women chatting on a bench outside Boots the Chemist in Dundee after their daily shop.

"At the end of Reform Street, there's this little wee square, and seats in it, and they always sat outside Boots the chemist, and I saw them and thought, 'oh golly they'd make a good picture', so I did sketches of them, and a little watercolour, and then a student took a black and white photo of them and gave it to me so I could get all the detail," he said.

Two Auld Wifies by Ron Stenberg.

Two Auld Wifies by Ron Stenberg. Photo: Supplied

Mr Stenberg was accepted into Elam School of Art in Auckland at age 12, served as a mapping officer in the Second World War, and went on to become a painter for The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).

Mr Stenberg later became the Head of Department at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, and has a painting in the Queen's private collection.

Mr Stenberg said the Two Auld Wifies painting was taken to New York, where it was shown in an exhibition with ten other Scottish artists.

"There a chap offered me $50,000 for it, but the Wall Street crash came at the wrong time, but I was glad, because I didn't want to sell it, so we got it back," he told The Scotsman.

"When it came back, one of the janitors at the gallery came in and said, 'that lady's my aunty, that lady in the brown coat, she's there every Friday', and I said, 'oh yes, that's her'."

Ron Stenberg in his Birkenhead home.

Ron Stenberg in his Birkenhead home. Photo: Supplied

He said he consulted his sons about where the painting should go.

"Both my boys are Scots, they said they'd like it to go back to Dundee got in touch with gallery there and they said they'd be delighted."

Mr Stenberg returned to New Zealand in 1991.