Jersey-born artist John Alexander Gilfillan had the benefit of a thorough art training in Scotland, not least in anatomical drawing. He was Professor of Painting at the Andersonian University in Glasgow for eleven years before migrating to New Zealand in 1841. There, he painted portraits of Maori and made many sketches depicting life as experienced by the early European settlers. He was forced to leave in 1847 when his wife and three children were killed, and he and his eldest daughter were seriously injured by Maori during troubles in the area. He moved to Australia with his surviving children, where he worked up earlier sketches of Putiki Pah into an important watercolour which was later exhibited in London.