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Death of von Tempsky painting


Kennett Watkins’ romanticised painting of the death of Gustavus von Tempsky during a battle against Tītokowaru at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, 1868.

Aged only 40 when he died, Tempsky had in the previous six years earned a reputation as ‘one of the most colourful characters of nineteenth century New Zealand’. The adventurer, writer and soldier was also an able watercolour artist who captured many scenes of the New Zealand Wars.

Tempsky served with the Forest Rangers, an irregular colonial force established during the Waikato War. His commission as an officer was granted on condition that he took out British citizenship. By the end of the Waikato War he had reached the rank of major and established a reputation as an intrepid leader and strong disciplinarian who was popular with his men.

In January 1868 he was appointed to the Armed Constabulary, the new colonial regular army which was initially commanded by Thomas McDonnell. On 7 September a colonial force attacked Tītokowaru’s position at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. It was severely mauled, and Tempsky was among those killed.


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: C-033-006
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

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Death of von Tempsky painting, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated