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Colin McCahon Canterbury Landscape 1952. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū 2014. Reproduction permission courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust. Purchased with the support of Christchurch City Council's Challenge Grant to the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust

Colin McCahon Canterbury Landscape 1952. Oil on canvas. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū 2014. Reproduction permission courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust. Purchased with the support of Christchurch City Council's Challenge Grant to the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust

Canterbury Landscape by Colin McCahon

Collection

In 2014 we purchased an important landscape work by Colin McCahon. Curator Peter Vangioni speaks about this new addition to Christchurch Art Gallery’s collection.

Canterbury landscape by Colin McCahon is the first of his Canterbury landscapes from the period from the late forties until the early fifties when he was living here, to come into Christchurch Art Gallery’s collection. McCahon acquisitions have been few and far between in the last thirty years, so it’s a significant purchase for us. It’s a really important addition to the story of Canterbury landscape painting.

‘I’ve curated one of the Gallery’s re-opening exhibitions of twentieth century Canterbury landscape paintings from the collection titled In the Vast Emptiness. There was no Colin McCahon Canterbury landscape in the collection, which was a pretty big gap really. So I found this 1952 landscape for sale and the Gallery negotiated its purchase.

‘The painting had been reframed within the last five years, or so I think. The frame was OK, but it had been blinged up a bit and it was too wide for the painting. So we’ve had a new frame built that’s more in keeping with the period and has a kind of austerity, because a lot of McCahon’s frames were quite austere back in the day.

‘I think the painting is possibly based on a White’s Aviation photograph of North Canterbury. So he’s looking down on the Canterbury plains which stretch across the canvas and there’s just a thin horizon line there, which is why we’ve had to float the canvas in the frame, because if you set it in a rebate (the recess where the picture fits into the frame) you’d lose a lot of that top part.

Aerial view of the Canterbury Plains and Rakaia River. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-49562-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22701550  

Aerial view of the Canterbury Plains and Rakaia River. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-49562-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22701550

 

‘The work is interesting because the Canterbury landscape has been cut up into sections and fragmented by these black lines which could represent shelter belts. McCahon had recently been in Melbourne and had studied under Mary Cockburn-Mercer, who in turn had studied under the cubists in France in the 1910s. That ignited his interest in cubism, and he came back here and suddenly he was painting the Canterbury landscape in a cubist manner. This work was painted in 1952 and he painted the triptych On Building Bridges that same year with the Canterbury landscape rendered in this style in the background. Then he moved to Titirangi in 1953 and went totally cubist up there, painting kauri trees and the Waitakeres. So these Canterbury landscapes are a turning point in his career.

‘I think it’s fascinating that before we got There is only one direction in 2013, the last McCahon the Gallery purchased was almost thirty years ago in 1982. The Gallery buying McCahons has been fraught over the years. On two occasions in the 1960s a gift of a McCahon painting to the Robert McDougall was rejected as not suitable or appropriate for the Gallery’s collection, although one of the works, Tomorrow will be the same but not as this was eventually begrudgingly accepted. When director John Coley purchased As there is a constant flow of light in 1982 he was widely vilified by people who could see no merit in the work. A local radio station even invited people to paint McCahon look-a-likes and planned an exhibition of them.  In the last three years we’ve acquired three McCahon paintings. It’s good to see him better represented in our collection, though there is still a large gap, the elephant that isn’t in the room, and that’s a late period black and white word painting on un-stretched canvas. One day…’

Colin McCahon On Building Bridges (triptych) 1952. Oil on hardboard. Collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1958. Reproduction permission courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust  

Colin McCahon On Building Bridges (triptych) 1952. Oil on hardboard. Collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1958. Reproduction permission courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

 

Related

Collection
Canterbury Landscape
Colin McCahon Canterbury Landscape

'Pākihi is a word for a place that is bare or without trees. The Pākehā surveyors called these cleared areas parkee from the Māori word for no trees, pākihi. Kā Pākihi-Whakatekateka-A-Waitaha: the treeless place, the joyous strutting march through the treeless land of south Canterbury, Waitaha – that’s the old name for the Canterbury Plains.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Exhibition
From the Sun Deck: McCahon’s Titirangi

From the Sun Deck: McCahon’s Titirangi

Colin McCahon’s shift to Titirangi in 1953 was a watershed moment in the artist’s career, providing the inspiration for him to develop his interest in cubism and abstraction.

Commentary
To Colin McCahon

To Colin McCahon

James K. Baxter’s 1952 poem ‘To Colin McCahon’ is an important marker in the long and sometimes tempestuous artistic relationship the two men shared. On an immediate level, the poem is a response to McCahon’s painting There is only one direction (1952), which he presented to Jim and Jacquie Baxter to mark the birth of their daughter Hilary after they had named McCahon her godfather.

Article
Exquisite Treasure Revealed

Exquisite Treasure Revealed

Canterbury Museum holds two albums compiled by Diamond Harbour artist Margaret Stoddart. The older of the two, containing images featured in this Bulletin, and itself currently exhibited in the Gallery, covers the period 1886–96. The album is handsomely bound in maroon, and stamped M.O.S. in gold. It contains a sort of travelogue by way of black and white photographs set amongst decorative painting, mostly of native flora, with some locality and date information. 

 

Exhibition
In the Vast Emptiness

In the Vast Emptiness

The Canterbury landscape as captured by twentieth century painters.

Exhibition
McCahon / Van der Velden

McCahon / Van der Velden

An exhibition of two of New Zealand's most respected painters.

Article
Gazumped

Gazumped

One of the exhibitions brought to a halt by the 22 February earthquake was De-Building, which critic Warren Feeney had described only days earlier as 'Christchurch Art Gallery's finest group show since it opened in 2003'. Seven months on, the show's curator, Justin Paton, reflects on random destruction, strange echoes, critical distance, and the 'gazumping of art by life'.

Interview
Otira: it's a state of mind

Otira: it's a state of mind

A short road trip to the Otira Gorge was the scene for a conversation between Gallery curator Peter Vangioni and two of the artists included in Van der Velden: Otira, Jason Greig and the Torlesse Supergroup's Roy Montgomery.

Interview
Talking Bensemann

Talking Bensemann

Leo Bensemann was one of the most respected figures in the Christchurch arts scene, and played a pivotal role in influential arts collective The Group. Always something of an odd-man-out, he produced a large body of work across several different disciplines before his death in 1986. In an attempt to get a fuller picture of the man himself, Gallery director Jenny Harper spoke to two artists who knew him well, John Coley and Quentin MacFarlane.

Artist Profile
Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann: an art venture

Leo Bensemann (1912–1986) was a pivotal figure bridging the worlds of literature and visual arts – a go-between like no other. Peter Simpson is an authority on this distinctive artist.

Article
Van der Velden: Otira

Van der Velden: Otira

A first encounter with a painting by Petrus van der Velden more than twenty years ago was the start of many years of research for Gallery curator Peter Vangioni. Peter is the lead author of the Gallery's new book on van der Velden, and talks here of his fascination with the artist's Otira works.

Exhibition
Van der Velden: Otira

Van der Velden: Otira

This exhibition brings together a comprehensive selection of Van der Velden's paintings portraying the wild, untouched natural beauty of the Otira region's mountainous landscape.

Exhibition
Coming Home in the Dark

Coming Home in the Dark

Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.

Exhibition
Colin McCahon

Colin McCahon

Two decades after Colin McCahon's death, this touring focus exhibition brings together paintings and works on paper by one of the most widely acclaimed New Zealand artists.

Collection
Bridge, Mt Cook Road
Rata Lovell-Smith Bridge, Mt Cook Road

'This is the Mount Cook Road, and there are many bridges on that road. The people of Ngāi Tūāhuriri would go inland into the McKenzie [just below where this location is painted] for hunting high country weka [native woodhen] with dogs. They'd carry their empty packs of pōhā [kelp bags to hold preserved birds] with them to the hunting area, catch the weka and process the birds up there. They’d carry the pōhā out, and meet people coming from the south also going up to those high country plains. It was a summer exercise. Towards the end of summer the birds are fat. You preserve them like tītī [muttonbirds] in their own fat.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Colin McCahon As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land

‘As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land.’ Colin McCahon quoted this text often on works between the mid-1960s and early 1970s: he took it from the writings of a twelfth-century Japanese Buddhist monk, Shinran, who was the founder of a tradition known as Pure Land Buddhism. McCahon had long been interested in light as a metaphor both for faith and enlightenment, and had begun a related series of dramatic semi-abstract waterfall paintings in 1964, in which a curve of white light cleaved through darkness. Here the landscape element has been reduced to a simple horizon, a dividing line between sky and sea, or sky and land, at the very edge of vision. (March 2018)

Collection
Light falling through a dark landscape (A)
Colin McCahon Light falling through a dark landscape (A)

For the exhibition Untitled #1050 (25 November 2017 – 14 October 2018) this work was displayed with the following label:

“As a painter I may often be more worried about you than you are about me and if I wasn’t concerned I’d not be doing my work properly as a painter. Painting can be a potent way of talking.

“Do you believe in the sunrise?

“My painting year happens first in late winter and early spring. I paint with the season and paint best during the long hot summers. I prefer to paint at night or more especially in the late summer afternoons when, as the light fades, tonal relationships become terrifyingly clear.

“At night I paint under a very large incandescent light bulb. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I am only now, and slowly, becoming able to paint in the morning. After a lifetime of working – farming, factories, gardening, teaching, the years at the Auckland City Art Gallery – I find it hard to paint in the world’s usual work-time. It can be difficult to accept that painting too is work.”

—Colin McCahon, 1972

Collection
Rakaia Series No. 37
Trevor Moffitt Rakaia Series No. 37

Trevor Moffitt had a deep love for inland Canterbury that was in part fostered by his obsession with fishing. In the mid 1970s he purchased a bach at Lake Clearwater, inland from the Canterbury town of Ashburton. This became his favourite spot to retreat from city life and experience the outdoors. In 1982, after the death of his wife, Alison, Moffitt began the series that this work is from. He said in an interview:

'After Alison died I’d had enough of people, so I went out and painted the Rakaia River series. I had just been emotionally drained. […] The best thing I could do was go off on the weekend and paint the river. I poured all my grief and tears into depicting the waters of the Rakaia.'

In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016

Collection
Hills and Plains, Waikari
William Sutton Hills and Plains, Waikari

William (Bill) Sutton spent most of his life in Christchurch, apart from two years from 1947–49 studying and painting in Britain and Europe. This time away helped attune his eyes to the distinctive qualities of the local regional landscape. Teaching full-time at the Canterbury College School of Art from that time, Sutton lived in a rented studio flat overlooking Victoria Square and became the owner of a Matchless motorbike – upgraded to a 500cc BSA Golden Flash in 1956 – on which he’d leave the city on his weekends in pursuit of countryside to paint.

Human presence has reshaped this landscape, with its bending macrocarpa windbreaks, simple corrugated iron structures and undulating patchwork fields. A palette of subtle ochres, greys and gold presents a characteristically Canterbury scene and typifies the work for which Sutton became appreciated and known.

(Beneath the ranges 18 February – 23 October 2017)

Collection
Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky, I
William Sutton Te Tihi o Kahukura and Sky, I

This painting by Bill Sutton expands our view of a familiar site on Christchurch’s Port Hills, encouraging the viewer to consider what mysteries may have been present before the arrival of Māori tangata whenua, the people of the land. Te Tihi o Kahukura, or the Citadel of Kahukura, is the first name of Castle Rock, the foregrounded point at the left of the painting. The extended Māori name translates as ‘the Citadel of the Rainbow God (and a) sky full of boiling clouds roaring around all over the place’. According to Kāi Tahu tradition, Kahukura is the atua, or god, who clothed the land; Kahukura later transformed to become the atua of rainbows. Here, Sutton’s interest in landscape, light and colour is applied to a location of significance for Māori. There is an intimacy in the site for Sutton, as he was able to see it “from my upstairs back-landing window”. Sutton’s house remains in what is now known as ‘the red zone’, an earthquake-battered place of an undetermined future.

(Te Tihi o Kahukura: The Citadel of Kahukura, 18 Februay 2017 - 18 May 2018)

Collection
Burial in the winter on the island of Marken [The Dutch Funeral]
Petrus van der Velden Burial in the winter on the island of Marken [The Dutch Funeral]

Research for the exhibition Closer (16 December 2017 – 19 August 2018) resulted in the restoration of this work's orginal title. In Dutch 'Begrafenis in den winter op het eiland Marken' and in English 'Burial in the winter on the island of Marken'.


One of Petrus van der Velden’s most significant paintings, Burial in the winter on the island of Marken arrived in Christchurch several years before the artist. It was brought to New Zealand by Gerritt van Asch, the pioneering educator for the hearing impaired, who had purchased it from van der Velden in Holland sometime before 1879. Van der Velden himself arrived in Christchurch, sponsored by van Asch, in mid 1890 and made an immediate impact on New Zealand art circles of the time. His genre paintings like this one were widely appreciated by the public and the press often described him in glowing terms as a “distinguished Dutch artist”. Holland’s loss was New Zealand’s gain and van der Velden went on to paint one of New Zealand’s most significant bodies of paintings, his famous Otira series, from the late nineteenth century.

(New Dawn Fades, November 2018)

Collection
Mackenzie Country
Esther Studholme Hope Mackenzie Country

The viewpoint Esther Hope chose for this work allowed her to show the vast expanse of the Mackenzie Country, which stretches out before the viewer towards the Southern Alps. This region was a favourite subject of Hope’s, one that she returned to throughout her career.

She said that “this land is a part of me … I have never regretted my choice of environment [and] have always felt a strong feeling of primitiveness [here].” Hope’s mature style is seen here, with broad wet washes of colour confidently used.

Hope was born near Geraldine, South Canterbury. She was first introduced to painting through her mother, Emily Studholme, an accomplished amateur artist. She also took lessons from Edwyn Temple and Margaret Stoddart. In 1912 Hope left New Zealand for England where she enrolled at the Slade School of Art, London. In 1919 she returned to New Zealand, married Henry Norman Hope and settled at the Grampians Station in the Mackenzie Country.

Collection
Sunset, Craigieburn
Colin S. Lovell-Smith Sunset, Craigieburn

Colin Lovell-Smith often went on painting trips to this area with his wife Rata, who was also a landscape painter. Craigieburn is in the Southern Alps, about 100 kilometres northwest of Christchurch. Although set beside a small riverbed close to the main road, the painting focuses on the steep eroded slopes of the Craigieburn Range. Lovell-Smith has paid close attention to the landform details, capturing the distinctive qualities of the Canterbury mountain region. Shades of ochre are subtly orchestrated with the soft grey of the predominant greywacke rocks. Born in Christchurch, Lovell-Smith studied at the Canterbury College School of Art then worked for his father’s printing business. During World War I Lovell-Smith was with the Royal Engineers on the Balkan Front and was subsequently awarded the Serbian Gold Medal of Merit for his work. On his return to Christchurch in 1919 he taught, first at St Andrew’s College, then at the School of Art, of which he was Director from 1947 until his death.

Collection
Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills
Doris Lusk Canterbury Plains From Cashmere Hills

Bill Sutton once commented that “on the Canterbury Plains you don’t look up and down but from side to side”, which seems entirely appropriate for this vast landscape painting of the plains by his friend Doris Lusk.

In the vast emptiness, 8 January - 21 August 2016

Collection
Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is
Colin McCahon Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is

In April 1958 Colin McCahon travelled to the US, responding both to the expansiveness of the American landscape and to the modern American painting that he saw in museums. On his return, his works increased in scale while economising in gesture: the landscape elements of Tomorrow have been reduced to a horizon and lowering sky, with the land bisected by a grey river. He converted his Titirangi garage into a studio, and built an extra bedroom for his children underneath. The studio was gloomy – there was only one small side window for light when the garage door was closed – but it precipitated dozens of new works. Tomorrow was an unfortunate painting, said McCahon, ‘in that it wouldn’t go right, and I got madder and madder. I hurled a whole lovely quart tin of black Dulux at the board and reconstructed the painting out of the mess.’ The black paint (a commercial flooring paint, mixed with sand) dripped down the surface of the work and ran between wide cracks in the studio floorboards, ruining clothes and bed linen in his sons’ room below. He finally finished the painting in May 1959.

(March 2018)

Collection
Nor’west
Juliet Peter Nor’west

According to Kāi Tahu, within the story of the creation of Te Waipounamu (the South Island), Aoraki was an atua, or demi-god, who left the home of his father, Raki, in the heavens and voyaged with his brothers to visit Raki’s first wife Poharora o Te Po. They set out to return to his father, but there was a fault in the karakia (prayer) for their return. Aoraki’s canoe – Te Waka o Aoraki – was stranded, and Aoraki and his brothers turned to stone, becoming the mountains of Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana, the Southern Alps.

'This work is interesting because it offers an unusual perspective on Aoraki [Mount Cook] – but Aoraki is full of different perspectives in Kāi Tahu culture. The mountain is, above all, a symbol of our tribal and regional identity. That’s got nothing much to do with its location – although that obviously commands cultural attention – but mainly because of its centrality in the Te Waipounamu creation story. And it is a distinctive creation story, part of a creation myth which has survived here in the remote outskirts of Polynesia while it has been lost at the centre where it came from. Aoraki made us distinctive, and it makes all people distinctive that live under its span. Juliet Peter’s depiction of it is unusual, but every way you look at Aoraki you’ve got a different perspective.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Dry September
William Sutton Dry September

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
Atmospheric Study, Sumner
Petrus van der Velden Atmospheric Study, Sumner

Petrus van der Velden valued the medium of drawing as highly as painting and was an extremely talented draughtsman. Spontaneously drawn outdoors directly before the subject, this small study shows Van der Velden’s interest in depicting dramatic, stormy atmospheric conditions with strong contrasts of light and dark. In the early 1890s, van der Velden and his family settled in Sumner, Christchurch where they stayed with the Van Asch family. Van der Velden immediately went about sketching in the region, and by the end of the year he had completed several major paintings based on Sumner scenes. Born in Rotterdam, van der Velden established himself as a painter, particularly of marine subjects, before he and his wife emigrated from Holland in 1890. He struggled to make a living in Christchurch, however, and moved to Sydney in 1898. He returned to settle in Wellington in 1904 and died in Auckland.

Collection
Mount Rolleston and the Otira River
Petrus van der Velden Mount Rolleston and the Otira River

Van der Velden described his first visit to the Otira Gorge: 'For the first three days I did nothing at all but just looked, it took my breath away.'

The lines between religion and art were blurred for van der Velden, and he often drew similarities between the two: 'There is as much nonsense talked about art as Jesus and because it's the same business nothing is understood. Tell the people sometime that Rembrandt and Jesus have the same meaning; how they would laugh, and yet it is true – Rembrandt made a study of light during his life, and Jesus did nothing else.'

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Camp in the Kowai
Austen A Deans Camp in the Kowai

'The Kowai would, in standard Māori, be pronounced Kōwhai – it's named after the kōwhai tree [native tree with yellow flowers].' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Kauri tree landscape
Colin McCahon Kauri tree landscape

In 1958 poet and arts patron Charles Brasch, a great supporter of McCahon, said of the Titirangi works: 'These Auckland paintings seem an entirely new departure. The colour and light of Auckland are different from those of the rest of New Zealand; they are more atmospheric, they seem to have an independent, airy existence of their own, and they break up the uniform mass of solid bodies, hills or forests or water, into a kind of brilliant prismatic dance. Some of the paintings are explorations, evocations, of the kauri forest of the Waitakeres. In some you seem to be inside the forest, discovering the structure of individual trees, with their great shaft trunks, their balloon-like cones, and the shafts of light that play among them. In others you look at the forest from outside, as it rises like a wall before you, built up of cylinders and cubes of lighter and darker colour, with its wild jagged outlines against the sky.' (From the Sun Deck: McCahon’s Titirangi, 17 September 2016 – 6 February 2017)

Collection
Canterbury Spring
Leo Bensemann Canterbury Spring

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
The Long Lookout
Ivy Fife The Long Lookout

'Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa, the son of Aoraki, is the atua [demi-god] who shapes the wrecked waka to ready it for people. His first great task is to defeat the south-easterly winds roaring along the side of the wreck. He invents peninsulas. He rakes all the rubbish of the wreckage and piles it up like a gigantic break water. Thus you have the Canterbury Plains and a sheltered place for his next invention, Whakaraupō [Lyttelton Harbour] and Akaroa Harbour. He then depresses his heel and creates Waihora [Lake Ellesmere], later claimed by the exploring ancestor, Rākaihautū, as Te Kete ika o Te Rākaihautū [the fish basket of Rākaihautū].' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Blind V
Colin McCahon Blind V

The word ‘blind’ refers to a screen that cuts out light, but Colin McCahon also uses it to refer to an absence of vision. Questions of faith were important to McCahon and he often used references to blindness to suggest the inability to see the real essence and value of things. McCahon’s style was highly personal and distinctive. Blind V is part of a series of five works painted onto window blinds. The abstract forms have the feel of a beach and sky and it has been suggested that the ‘blindness’ which McCahon refers to was the inability of New Zealanders to really see and appreciate their own unique environment.

McCahon is regarded by many as New Zealand’s greatest contemporary artist. Born in Timaru, he studied art in Dunedin. He lived in Christchurch for a time, became keeper and assistant director at Auckland Art Gallery, then lecturer in painting at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, before taking up painting full time in 1970.

Collection
Red and black landscape
Colin McCahon Red and black landscape

For the exhibition I See Red (5 December 2007 - 23 November 2008) this work was displayed with the following label: Colin McCahon’s combination of sky, sea and land is the simplest of landscapes, but by using powerful red and black, he has created a painting filled with mystery and weight.

‘Red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning, Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’ goes the old saying. This could be sunset or sunrise, a perfect day to come or a perfect storm. Which would you choose?

Collection
Sumner
Petrus van der Velden Sumner

“Colour is light, light is love and love is God and therefore on Sundays instead of going to church I teach my children drawing after nature. I have come to the conclusion that painting or drawing after nature, instead of being a luxury is the most necessary for the education of man. […] The aim of our existence is nothing else than to study nature and with so doing to understand more and more how grand and pure nature is and gives evidence of so much love.”

—Petrus van der Velden

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Evening
Colin S. Lovell-Smith Evening

'Well, this is Haumuri Point south of Kaikōura. Pākehā called it Amuri – you’ve got Amuri Motors, Amuri buildings, Amuri district or whatever. It is called Haumuri, and it was always explained to me that the name was given because the wind there is always behind you.

'In the Te Waipounamu creation story, Tu-Te-Raki-Whanoa had two assistant atua [demi-gods], Marokura and Kahukura. We could say that Kahukura was in charge of all parks and reserves, and Marokura was in charge of 
the Ministry of Fisheries. The whole coast is inhabited by the work of those atua. The land is clothed and beautified by Kahukura. Marokura goes off to make his own peninsula at Kaikōura. He was a fishing atua – he wasn’t much of a civil engineer – so it’s only a small peninsula. He puts the great riches of the sea into the coast, which was his skill. The coast is called Te Tai o Marokura; some people call it Te Koha o Marokura.' —Sir Tipene O’Regan

(He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land, 17 September 2016 – 18 February 2017)

Collection
Hawkins
Rata Lovell-Smith Hawkins

In 1930s New Zealand there was wide discussion about what was unique about the New Zealand situation; what it was that made us different from the rest of the world. Artists and writers began exploring ways to identify our national identity. A number of artists began painting the Canterbury High Country, most famously Rita Angus and her landscape painting of the railway station at Cass. One reviewer in 1936 observed that there was a new quality in the landscapes exhibited in Christchurch that seemed ‘to consist in a removal of the romantic mists which used to obscure mountains and the Canterbury countryside generally. The light now is clear and hard, the colours are in flat planes, and the effect is of seeing the country through a gem-like atmosphere. There is also a new romantic standpoint – an insistence on the isolation and brooding loneliness of the hills.’ It’s a statement that certainly rings true with the Canterbury paintings of Rita Angus, Leo Bensemann, Louise Henderson, Rata Lovell-Smith and Bill Sutton.

(March 2018)

Collection
Northland drawings
Colin McCahon Northland drawings

“Once more it states my interest in landscape as a symbol of place and also of the human condition. It is not so much a portrait of a place as such but is a memory of a time and an experience of a particular place.” —Colin McCahon

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Summer Kowai, 1934
Cedric Savage Summer Kowai, 1934

Kowai Bush is a farming area in the foothills of Central Canterbury, where typically the summers are very hot and dry. Like other Canterbury landscape artists of the 1930s, Cedric Savage was interested in recording the unique features of the Canterbury region. He was essentially a plein air (outdoors) artist concerned with painting directly from nature but in Summer, Kowai he has worked in a careful manner, keeping control over the application of paint. Born in Christchurch, Savage studied at the Canterbury College School of Art. He later studied with Sydney Lough Thompson (1877-1973) and Archibald Nicoll (1886 - 1953). After travelling, he returned to New Zealand in 1933, settling in Christchurch where he became vice-president of the New Zealand Society of Artists. Savage’s eyes were injured during World War II and for the rest of his life he could only paint outdoors. Although he won the Kelliher Art Award in 1962, Savage felt unappreciated in New Zealand and spent many years living away from the country, finally settling in Greece.

Collection
Nor’western Sky
Petrus van der Velden Nor’western Sky

The hot, dry nor'west winds of Canterbury produce dramatic cloud formations and an atmospheric light. Petrus van der Velden has captured these effects with what is probably Christchurch's River Avon in the foreground. He lived near the river between 1890 and 1893. The colonial woman bent over, occupied with her task of work, has echoes of his earlier Dutch paintings, which focused on Dutch peasants at work. Van der Velden painted in a realist manner, which was influenced by his association with the Dutch Hague School of painters who favoured dark sombre tones and a loose style of brushwork. The nor'west scene is created by using strong contrasts of light and shade (chiaroscuro). Born in Rotterdam, Van der Velden established himself as a painter, particularly of marine subjects, in Holland, from where he emigrated in 1890. However, he struggled to make a living in Christchurch and in 1898 went to Sydney. He returned to settle in Wellington in 1904 but died in Auckland.