The Little Emigrant

Laura Herford 
England, 1831–1870
The Little Emigrant 1868
oil on canvas, 550 x 425 mm
Collection of The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū: presented by Marjorie Sheat in 2007. Acc 1027

In 1860, Laura Herford was the first female artist to be accepted into London’s Royal Academy Schools. She used a little subterfuge when submitting her application, by just signing her initials.

Herford travelled to New Zealand in 1864, hoping to nurse her brother who was in the 3rd Waikato Militia, but she arrived after he died from injuries received at Ōrākau. In 1865, she met a Mrs Sarah Thompson, who told Herford of her journey from Leeds to Nelson, and how she often sat by the bulwarks, ‘looking out over the wide, wide sea dreaming of home’. Herford responded: ‘You have given me a motif. I will paint you as the little emigrant lass thinking of home.’

Once Herford had executed the painting on her return to London, it was shipped to the Thompsons. Eventually, it was handed down to Marjorie Sheat, the great-granddaughter of ‘the little emigrant’, who donated it to the Suter.

Installation Details

27 Halifax Street
(Elma Turner Nelson Library)


Many thanks to the property owner and tenant for being part of ArtWalk.

Nelson City Centre ArtWalk is a joint project by Make/Shift Spaces and The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū.