John Alexander Gilfillan (1793-1863) was Professor of Painting at the Andersonian University, Glasgow, for many years before migrating to New Zealand in 1842. He painted portraits of Maori in the Wellington and Hutt areas, as well as making many sketches of life in these early years of European settlement.
Taking up land near Wanganui in 1845, he was forced to leave in 1847 when his wife and four children were killed, and he himself and his eldest daughter seriously injured by Maori during unrest in the area. Although he moved to Australia with his surviving children, he worked up earlier sketches of Putiki Pah into an important watercolour which was later exhibited in London, and reproduced as a lithograph which is itself now a rare and valuable collector's item. Some of Gilfillan's sketchbooks are held in the Hocken Library, Dunedin.