Today is James Nairn's birthday, an artist who could arguably be described as the father of Impressionism in New Zealand.
Nairn came to New Zealand from Scotland in 1890 and prior to this he had been involved with the Glasgow Boys, a group of artists interested in the Barbizon school and Impressionism. Nairn himself inspired many New Zealand artists with his plein air approach and interest in the effects of light on his subjects. Nairn moved to New Zealand primarily for health reasons and it was ironic that he died from a chill (which quickly developed into something far more nasty) caught while painting outdoors at Motueka.
Hoeing the crop is my favourite work by Nairn in the Gallery's collection. Conservation treatment of the painting for the exhibition 'Natures Own Voice' in 2009 revealed a date and more importantly the inscription 'Taita' which grounds the location of the scene. It's certainly not the Taita I remember from my childhood in the Hutt Valley. Nairn and his fellow painters sought rural subjects for their work and Pumpkin cottage was rented at Silverstream between Lower and Upper Hutt so they could take a break from the bustle of Wellington and retreat to the countryside. Of course the Hutt Valley has been built out since Nairn's day with much industrial and residential development having occurred particularly after the Second World War. Nairn's view is another world away.