The objects that Walter Cook collected were made in Europe. Yet most were originally bought new in New Zealand by a discerning public eager to own designer domestic ware. People learned about the latest trends through art schools, exhibitions, and influential British journals like The Studio and Decorative Art.
Among Walter’s collecting guides was the catalogue for the British Court – part of the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch. This exhibition attracted almost 2 million visitors – more than double New Zealand’s then population. Walter said of the catalogue: ‘For me, its particular value lay in that it covered the whole of the British Arts and Crafts movement, not just William Morris.’ He was soon scouring the second-hand shops for similar works, like those you see here.
Europe was also the source of the modernist designs that became popular in New Zealand after World War II, bolstered by a wave of European immigration. Walter bought most of his modernist pieces new at Wellington department store James Smith’s.
Text taken from exhibition Walter Cook: A Collector's Quest 2012.