Colin McCahon

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1919, d.1987


  • 1959
  • Ink wash on paper
  • Donated from the Canterbury Public Library Collection, 2001
  • Reproduced courtesy of Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust
  • 631 x 506mm
  • 2002/270

In 1958, Colin McCahon spent several months in America, visiting numerous art museums to see historical and contemporary art from the United States and Europe. Returning to a wintry Aotearoa New Zealand, he struggled to readjust. Eventually he found solace and inspiration in memories of a place very close to his heart – the wild, wind-sculpted landscape of Aotearoa’s Far North. Oil paintings were followed by a series of ink wash drawings, painted on paper spread out over the floor like a continuous, unfolding frieze. They are dark and lonely images, full of longing and a sense of return. “It’s a painful love, loving a land,” McCahon wrote. “It takes a long time.”

(Absence, May 2023)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • The years 1958-59 were intensely productive for Colin McCahon, and his output for the period included a large body of work known as the ‘Northland series’. Of the 80 or so wash drawings, McCahon said ‘the sheets of paper were all spread out over the floor in a row and I simply walked along the line with a brush in my hand using it to create … a continuous image. I think this method gave me the feeling of spontaneity I was after … They are linked to the Northland series done in oils, but are less strict than the oils and I think that finally the ones on paper are better.’ McCahon is now widely regarded as New Zealand’s most important modern painter. He was born in Timaru and studied art in Dunedin. He spent time in Christchurch and Nelson, and moved to Auckland in 1953, working first at the City Art Gallery then at the University of Auckland School of Fine Arts. In 1970 he resigned from teaching to paint full-time. (Label date unkown)