New Zealand, 1939–
Boy and Dolphin 1969
oil on hardboard, 1210 x 602 mm
On long-term loan to The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū
Michael Smither researched and painted a series of humans with a dolphin after being commissioned to do a cover image for Maurice Shadbolt’s novel This Summer’s Dolphin. Smither said, ‘I went through a steep learning curve in interspecies communication. I prepared a slate board to draw dolphins underwater (at Napier’s Aquarium). They crowded round me to get a look over my shoulder as I worked. I’m certain they recognised themselves.’
Humans have been obsessed with bonding with dolphins for millennia. In Smither’s painting, the dolphin definitely appears to be the more intelligent and confident being, an impression heightened by the young man’s ungainly limbs and water-magnified hands.