John Drawbridge book of drawings gifted to the Alexander Turnbull Library — 12.11.12

An album of drawings that records one of the most unique artistic collaborations in the history of New Zealand has been gifted to the Alexander Turnbull by sculptor Tanya Ashken, the wife of the late artist John Drawbridge.

John Drawbridge book of drawings gifted to the Alexander Turnbull Library

The album of 45 beautiful watercolour and pastel drawings contains Drawbridge's storyboard for a planned 1949 film ‘The Ascent of Aspiring'.

"Intended as a ‘cinematic poem' the film had a remarkable group working on it, with noted cinematographer Brian Brake as the film-maker, poet James K Baxter as scriptwriter, Douglas Lilburn as composer and 18-year-old John Drawbridge as artist," says Marian Minson, Turnbull Curator Drawings Paintings and Prints .

Assembled before filming, the storyboard was designed to secure financing for the film. It shows three young climbers progressing up the perilous mountain, and the surrounding landscapes, including views below and above the bush-line, the glaciers and summit of the mountain.

The film was never completed because of bad weather over the summer of 1949, and the death of one of the climbers the following year.

"The Turnbull is delighted to receive these works," says Chris Szekely, the Turnbull Chief Librarian. "They relate to a remarkable project involving some of New Zealand's most iconic cultural luminaries. It is a most generous donation."

Ashken's donation is timed to coincide with the establishment of Massey University's College of Creative Arts' John Drawbridge Ambassadorial Scholarship. The Scholarship will assist Massey students registered in international exchange programmes.

The Alexander Turnbull Library is part of the National Library of New Zealand. The Library building in Molesworth Street, Wellington, is due to reopen to the public on 27 November after a major refurbishment.

Image of John Drawbridge taken in 2004 by Denise Baldwin