Toss Woollaston

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1910, d.1998

Apparition Of A Man

  • Donated from the Canterbury Public Library Collection, 2001
  • Watercolour
  • 383 x 305mm
  • 2002/203
  • 1964

The image in this watercolour is a transparent dissolving face. With it, Tosswill Woollaston’s aim seems more to create an expressive impression, rather than an identifiable portrait. He has painted transparent layers of watercolour wash, allowing the movement of water to bring abstract expressionist qualities to the traditional genre of portraiture. Woollaston’s expressive style gives the painting a sense of movement and energy. His painting was indirectly influenced by the theories of the German painter Hans Hoffman (1880-1966). Woollaston was born in Taranaki, in the North Island. When he was 18 he moved to Riwaka, in the Nelson district. He began painting in watercolours and in these years often supported himself by fruit picking. In the 1930s he studied at Canterbury College School of Art and in Dunedin. Woollaston moved to Greymouth with his family in 1949 and remained there until 1968 when they moved to Riwaka. He committed himself to paint fulltime in 1966. Woollaston was knighted in 1979 for his services to the arts.