Colin McCahon

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1919, d.1987

Kauri tree landscape

  • 1955
  • Oil on board
  • Donated from the Canterbury Public Library Collection, 2001
  • Reproduced courtesy of Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust
  • 875 x 620mm
  • 2002/177

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)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Between 1953 and 1959 Colin McCahon was living in Titirangi, just outside Auckland, where he was inspired by the surrounding kauri bush. Having just arrived in the north, McCahon was impressed by the vertical elements of the terrain and the remnants of native forest around his new home. In this work McCahon has used a modified form of Cubism, which shows the influence of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). The straight trunks of the kauri trees and the circular bunches of foliage are well suited to this treatment.

    Now widely regarded as New Zealand's most important painter of the 20th century, McCahon was born in Timaru and studied art in Dunedin, first exhibiting his work in 1949. He spent time in Christchurch and Nelson but moved to Auckland in 1953, working first at the City Art Gallery, then teaching at the University of Auckland School of Fine Arts. McCahon established a studio at Muriwai in 1968 and in 1970 resigned from teaching to paint full-time. He died in Auckland.