Nicholas Chevalier

Russia / Australia, b.1828, d.1902

The Otira Gorge

Van der Velden: Otira, 11-22 February 2011

Nicholas Chevalier was one of the first artists to pass through the Otira Gorge in 1866, just after the road had been completed. He travelled on horseback with several companions including his wife Caroline. In her account of the journey she describes the difficult yet deeply rewarding passage through the Otira Gorge and over Arthur’s Pass, where the scenery gave her, ‘the feeling of greatness of nature & its continual movement, never finished and ever going on’. In this watercolour Chevalier has rather exaggerated the peaks of the surrounding mountains to create a sense of greater drama and elevation.

earlier labels about this work
  • The Otira Gorge still provides a spectacular route through the Southern Alps between Canterbury and the West Coast. In 1866 the Canterbury Provincial Government awarded Nicholas Chevalier £200 to travel throughout the province making studies of the landscape. The road through the Otira Gorge had only just been completed. The painting was completed by Chevalier in his studio from studies made on his travels. He worked in both oils and watercolours and, although he painted in the academic style with a concern for detail, his work has elements of romanticism. He has rather exaggerated the peaks of the surrounding mountains to create a sense of drama and elevation. Born in St Petersburg, in 1845 Chevalier left Russia with his parents for Switzerland where he studied painting. He later studied architecture in both Munich and London. Late in 1854 he left for Melbourne. In New Zealand he was commissioned by both the Otago and Canterbury Provincial Councils to paint the 'scenic beauties' of the regions. Chevalier returned to England in 1870. (Label for oening Gallery hang, May 2003)