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Massey CoCA Hall of Fame - 2016

E. Mervyn Taylor

E. Mervyn Taylor (1906 – 1964) was a courageous man who dared to become a full-time professional artist, drew inspiration from the New Zealand landscape, and forged a unique path in his portrayal of Maori folklore and mythology.

After initially working as an apprenticed engraver for a manufacturing jeweller, and then in the advertising studio of W. D. & H. O. Wills, Mervyn decided printmaking might be a good step in his artistic development, and enrolled in Fred Ellis' night classes at Wellington Technical College’s School of Art during the 1930s.

Ellis encouraged Mervyn to become a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, and three of his wood engravings were accepted for display at the Academy’s annual exhibition in late 1937. In the same year he married Edelweiss 'Teddy' Cooke, who introduced him to Maori mythology.

Mervyn joined the advertising company Carlton-Carruthers in 1937, and with their encouragement enrolled once again at the Wellington Technical College to attend life drawing classes.

After spent time in the NZ army before beginning to work as a full time artist, with his first job as the Art Editor and Illustrator for the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education, home of the New Zealand School Journal. Mervyn's work was widely distributed throughout New Zealand, and many New Zealanders fondly remember his numerous wood engravings, depicting New Zealand flora and fauna, and scenes of Maori life and mythology.

In 1952, Mervyn was awarded a scholarship from the Association of New Zealand Art Societies, and spent time in Te Kaha, on the East Cape, where he studied Maori life and worked on a project to illustrate stories from Sir George Grey's book Polynesian Mythology.

His recognition as a master print maker and engraver soon began to extend beyond New Zealand; he exhibited, toured, and was made a fellow of numerous prestigious organisations throughout the world, including New York and Moscow.

In New Zealand he continued to exhibit and take commissions, and to take a keen interest in the development of the arts in New Zealand. He was a key player in the first combined exhibition of sculpture, pottery and the graphic arts, held at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1962. He was also a member of the National Art Gallery management committee, and a founder of the Architectural Centre in Wellington. He consistently advocated that each new building should display a work of art commissioned specifically for the site.

During his lifetime Mervyn produced 13 murals using paint, sand-blasted glass, wood-carving, and ceramic tiles. Spectacular murals were produced for post offices, war memorials, and other public buildings throughout the North Island. The College of Creative Arts has undertaken a search and recovery project to restore and protect these works, the result of which was published in 2018; Wanted: The Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor, edited by Bronwyn Holloway Smith (Massey University Press).