German artist defiant over painting depicting kaumātua

By Will Trafford

Portrait of prominent Tūhoe kaumātua Rangi McLean by German artist Gerd Stritzel Photo / Instagram

A German artist who produced an unauthorised portrait of prominent kaumātua Rangi McLean, says he thinks he’s done nothing wrong and will leave the dispute in the hands of lawyers.

Gerd Stritzel received a copyright notice from the Tūhoe leader’s lawyers in July, after the oil painting was discovered for sale for several thousand dollars on a popular European website.

Stritzel though remains defiant, telling NZME he has reached out to McLean to explain why he thinks the art should be used to "support the Māori community".

"I don't think there is a copyright infringement here. In the last few weeks, I have discussed this with photographers from New Zealand and with a lawyer from Germany.” Stritzel told NZME.

"I have been in contact with Mr McLean and have made some suggestions on how my art can be used to support the Māori community," Stritzel said.

Stritzel did not express understanding of the tikanga of reproducing the image of McLean, predominantly citing legal arguments, but referring to what he called an "ethical question",’ he said he could understand McLean’s concern.

'Inspired by Māori'

“I have asked for his understanding.” Stritzel said.

The artist says he travelled to New Zealand in 2019, telling the newspaper he felt "inspired by Māori".

"Most people find it flattering and are honoured to be portrayed," Stritzel said.

"As an artist, I'm not interested in copying reality of people. I try to paint the mood, the environment, or the cultural impressions. For this I use the art of portrait painting.

"I make my art with positive thoughts."

"I would like to paint more Māori portraits. These proud faces and the exciting, beautiful New Zealand nature fascinate me. Māoris are welcome to send me their portrait photos to be artistically painted by me. I don't differentiate here between men and women, young and old. That would be an exciting project," he said.

Stritzel has posted a photograph of the painting on his Instagram page. Of some 20 comments, all have been disparaging of the reproduction, with most citing the lack of approval from the kaumātua.

Some brand Stritzel a "thief", while others argue the reproduction is "disgraceful".

“Mr Stritzel, I am aware that you have received cease and desist correspondence from the depicted party's lawyer. I would strongly urge you to remove this image from all internet and social media platforms,” one urged.

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