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Last updated: 22 August 2018

Wheeler, Colin (1919-2012)

Collection | Ref # ZARCH 283 | Held by

What is it?


Wheeler, Colin (1919-2012)


Murray Millar (b. ca 1931)

Level of description:



3 boxes, 2 O/S folders

Reference number:



Colin Wheeler was born in Dunedin in 1919. He trained first at the Canterbury School of Art and then at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London. He taught art at Waitaki Boys High School until 1969, after which he commenced painting full time and producing books.

His favourite subject matter included buildings, the landscape and related activities and his well-known books chronicling the old sheep stations of New Zealand reflect this interest. These books were commissioned by the publisher A.H. and A.W. Reed. The research for these became a labour of love and an odyssey with both he and his wife travelling for up to twelve months at a time, staying at the old homesteads that he portrayed.

Wheeler's work was keenly collected throughout the decades that he was painting and is exhibited in numerous public and private collections throughout New Zealand as well as abroad. His paintings continue to sell well.

Murray Millar (b. ca 1931) worked in the Bindary at Dunedin Public Library from 1948 -77 and became foreman Binder in 1963. Millar met Colin Wheeler in 1947 when he became Wheeler’s first privately taught art student. He had attended Wheeler’s first one man show and and contacted him about private tuition. A strong friendship grew and continued after Wheeler left Dunedin. The two kept up a decades-long correspondence, developing into highly illustrated letters between the two who assumed the noms-de-plume of Sir Frank (Colin, after Sir Frank Brangwyn) and Sir Alf (Murray,after Sir Alfred Munnings), both British artists much admired by Murray and Wheeler. Murray moved to Canberra, Australian in the 1970s but the correspondence continued into the new millennium.

[NB A Guide to the Wheeler Archive was prepared by Rare Books Librarian Anthony Tedeschi in July 2011 a few months after the collection was donated to Dunedin Public Library]

Scope & Content:
Correspondence from Colin Wheeler to Murray Miller:
the letters are about their everyday life, their health, friends and family, painting activities and exhibitions, travels; many of the letters and enveloppes are illustrated with sketches and watercolours. Incuded are home made greeting cards with illustrations by Wheeler, postcards from overseas and a few newspaper clippings. Some letters are from Wheeler’s wife Phyllis; Newspaper and magazine clippings mainly about Wheeler and his work; Exhibition catalogues and invitations mainly for Wheeler's exhibitions, including his work on South Island Sheep Stations, and exhibitions at the Forrester Art Gallery, Oamaru; Album of illustrations and letters entitled Sir Frank to Sir Alf, 1953; Eight of Wheeler’s drawings done at various sheep stations around New Zealand for his publications about New Zealand’s sheep stations, seven ink drawings, one signed by Wheeler, and one small watercolour; n.d. ca 1968-73; Photographs of Wheeler’s paintings and biro drawings of sights around Oamaru; one photo of Phyllis Wheeler and Kathleen Millar, all taken in Wheeler’s Oamaru studio; n.d. ca 1982

Dates covered:

1960 - 2010

Access conditions:

No restrictions.

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Associated with:


Dunedin · Oamaru

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