What do coaching, art and Spiritualism have in common? Christchurch artist Edgar Lovell-Smith of course. Born in 1875, the eldest child of Jennie and Will Smith, Edgar was the older brother of well-known painter Colin Lovell-Smith (the husband to another of New Zealand’s famous artists Rata Lovell-Smith) with some 20 years in age between the two creatives. The family name was changed from Smith to Lovell Smith in 1908.
Edgar Lovell-Smith watercolour painting, The South Road in the Sixties, Canterbury, 1919. Canterbury Museum EMLS.2
Edgar was prolific and diligent in recording the coaching days of New Zealand, documenting their stories in not only paint but complementary research as well. Edgar trained at Canterbury University College of Art, then travelled abroad for further art education, before returning to Christchurch and taking up employment as a lithographic artist at Smith and Anthony. In 1914 he married Gertrude Hicks of London who came to share Edgar's enthusiasm for stage coaches and helped him in his research.
Canterbury Museum cares for Edgar's research, along with a manuscript for an unpublished book on coaching in Canterbury and the West Coast and information about the coach previously on display at the Museum which his wife donated. We also care for about 30 of Edgar's watercolours and ink drawings, such as the ones pictured. Edgar retired from his job working as a lithographic artist in 1920 to devote himself to research on early coaching in New Zealand. He was especially interested the stage coaches which ran a regular service across the Southern Alps until 1928, following the opening of the Otira rail tunnel through the mountains in 1923.
Edgar Lovell-Smith ink drawing W C Webb’s Bush Inn, built 1864. Canterbury Museum EMLS.11
Edgar purchased, restored, used (until at least 1930) a Cobb & Co coach which was later presented to Canterbury Museum and is now proudly on display in Arthur’s Pass. This coach was also know as the Seddon Coach as for many years it carried the Rt Hon Richard John Seddon, former Premier of New Zealand, between Springfield and Kumara.
Edgar was interestingly the founder of the Psychic Research Society, which attempted to investigate the truth of spiritualist claims. He is also the great-uncle of Museum volunteer Margaret Lovell-Smith. Margaret has written a book titled Plain Living: High Thinking which is the story of Edgar’s parents and family. Edgar also published a book titled Old Coaching Days in Otago and Southland.
These items are not currently on display at the Museum.
List Image: Edgar Lovell-Smith watercolour painting Coach at Weedons Halfway House. Canterbury Museum EMLS.4