Toss Woollaston

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1910, d.1998

Untitled [Quentin (Kin) Woollaston Shearing]

  • 1962
  • Ink on paper
  • Gift of the family of Geoffrey Moorhouse, 2011
  • 528 x 440mm
  • 2012/001

Mountford Tosswill (Toss) Woollaston was the eldest of five sons of share-milking dairy farmers in Taranaki. His working life started divided between rural manual labour – mainly seasonal fruit and tobacco picking – and artistic pursuits, initially poetry before he found his vocation as a painter. Early study included two terms each at the Canterbury College School of Art in 1931 and the Dunedin School of Art in 1932. Woollaston held his first solo exhibition in Dunedin in 1936; his commitment to modernism at this time marked him out as singular. By the early 1960s, when he made this vigorous drawing of his youngest brother shearing, the by-then Greymouth- based artist was gaining increased recognition. In 1966 he began to work on his art full-time.

(Beneath the ranges, 18 February – 23 October 2017)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Toss Woollaston grew up in a family of share-milking dairy farmers in Taranaki. He had no fondness for farm work, preferring instead – to his parents’ dismay – to follow the “thrilling, silent life” of an artist, first as a poet and then as a painter. He retained, however, his passion for the rural landscape. Woollaston visited his father in Taranaki regularly during the 1960s, and on two trips sketched his brother Quentin, known as Kin, shearing sheep. Made around the time that Woollaston’s career was finally gaining momentum – after travelling to Europe and the United States on an Arts Council grant in 1962, he took the leap to become a fulltime painter in 1966 – this muscular ink drawing is taut with life and movement.

    (Unseen: The Changing Collection, 18 December 2015 – 19 June 2016)