Petrus van der Velden

Aotearoa New Zealand / Netherlands, b.1837, d.1913

Burial in the winter on the island of Marken [The Dutch Funeral]

  • Gift of Henry Charles Drury van Asch, 1932
  • Oil on canvas
  • 1645 x 2900 x 145mm
  • 69/125
  • 1875
  • View on google maps

Research for the exhibition Closer (16 December 2017 – 19 August 2018) resulted in the restoration of this work's orginal title. In Dutch 'Begrafenis in den winter op het eiland Marken' and in English 'Burial in the winter on the island of Marken'.

earlier labels about this work
  • Brought to light, November 2009- 22 February 2011

    Petrus van der Velden’s masterpiece The Dutch funeral forms part of a wider narrative sequence when placed in the context of his other Marken funeral paintings. Collectively the series tells the story of the death of a fisherman and his body’s journey from the beach to his village in a funeral barge; the procession of his casket from the church to the cemetery is the subject of The Dutch funeral. The tale of loss is seen in the individual faces following the coffin, from the grim staunchness of the men pushing the coffin sled, to the inconsolable women at the centre of the group and the pensive curiosity of the two children.

  • McCahon / Van der Velden,18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016

    McCahon often chose not to frame his paintings. He once said:

    You don’t paint paintings to hang them up with frames around them. The frame is necessary frequently to hang them with but it’s not part of the work. It’s not part of the story and I think they can be dispensed with. […] I think it cancels the immediacy of the work.

    We’ve unframed this major work by van der Velden to allow a clearer comparison with McCahon's 'Blind V'.

  • Inspired by an actual drowning of a fisherman that occurred near the Island of Marken during one of Van der Velden’s visits there, this painting is in the style of the 19th century Romantic Realist work of the Dutch School of painters. They were concerned with portraying the harsh conditions of the Dutch working class with naturalism and objectivity. Van der Velden has treated the humble family funeral with the scale and focus previously reserved for grand events. The strong contrast of black and white adds to the human drama emphasised by the huddled figures. Born in Rotterdam, Van der Velden gave up his business as a lithographer in 1867 and began to paint marine subjects. The following year he registered at the Rotterdam Academy of Art, and a year later at the Academy, Berlin. In 1890 he emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand, with his family. They lived in Sydney from 1898 to 1904, then returned to New Zealand. (Opening Gallery hang, May 2003)

    This work belongs to the 19th century Dutch realist school, which focused on the lives of the peasants and country villagers. Here van der Velden has focussed on a funeral, confining his colours to the narrow tonal range favoured by the Dutch painters of the Hague School. The strong contrast of black and white also adds to the human drama of the huddled figures. 'The Dutch Funeral' comes from a series which followed an 1869 visit Van der Velden made to the Island of Marken, in the Zeider Zee, Holland. This work was also influenced by the Dutch realist Josef Israels, who was so impressed when 'The Dutch Funeral' was exhibited at The Hague in 1872, that he awarded van der Velden a special medallion.

    (Label from before 2003)

Related

Commentary
The Dutch Funeral, Retitled

The Dutch Funeral, Retitled

When you think about it, The Dutch Funeral is a peculiar title for a work painted in the Netherlands, by a Dutch artist. You could imagine such a work being titled The Funeral, or A Funeral; or even more likely, A Funeral at a Specified Place or possibly At a Specified Time. Even Of a Certain Person. But The Dutch Funeral? Most unlikely. It was while we were researching works for the Closer exhibition that its strangeness suddenly became evident to me. I was surprised that I’d never questioned the title before. But then, like many people who grew up in Christchurch, I was used to The Dutch Funeral as a fixture of local culture, a work so large it could never be taken off the wall at the McDougall; a magnificently gloomy painting which van der Velden scholar Rodney Wilson once described as “a sort of Christchurch version of the Night Watch with an immense public following”.

My Favourite
Petrus van der Velden's The Dutch Funeral 1875

Petrus van der Velden's The Dutch Funeral 1875

If I don’t watch at least three films a week, my life starts to feel unsettled. Five is a good average to see me through, but above all at least one of these films must be terrifying.

Notes
More PapersPast

More PapersPast

Another six years of the Press have been digitised thanks to the National Library and Christchurch City Libraries

Notes
International Book Day

International Book Day

I was lucky enough to recently acquire my own copy of one my favourite books, Rodney Wilson's two-volume, case bound Catalogue Raisonne of Petrus van der Velden.

Notes
Quake brain, van der Velden-style

Quake brain, van der Velden-style

As might be expected, the Gallery's collection is primarily made up of complete works; prepared, resolved and sent on their way, as ready as they'll ever be for public exposure.

Notes
Christchurch Art Gallery to reopen mid-2013

Christchurch Art Gallery to reopen mid-2013

Christchurch Art Gallery expects to reopen in mid-2013 – but in the meantime it will continue to offer art and art-related programmes beyond its walls.

Notes
There's no business, like snow business

There's no business, like snow business

It seems we're really just not set up to deal with snow in Christchurch.

Notes
Wall to wall van der Velden

Wall to wall van der Velden

Right now, visitors to the Gallery have an excellent opportunity to view three key paintings by Petrus van der Velden in the current Brought To Light hang, and all without even having to take a single step.

Notes
Petrus is back

Petrus is back

Petrus van der Velden's The Dutch funeral – one of the Gallery's most popular paintings – is back on display today as part of the Storytellers exhibition.

Notes
The Valley of Darkness

The Valley of Darkness

In preparation for the Gallery's forthcoming exhibition and publication, Gallery photographer John Collie is busily photographing Petrus Van der Velden works.

Notes
The Painting collection: Focusing on New Zealand

The Painting collection: Focusing on New Zealand

The initial focus of the Canterbury Society of Arts collection had been painting by both British and New Zealand living artists acquired for educational purposes. The Society did not set out to form a museum-type painting collection, although it was conscious of the need to improve the standard of the work represented.

Exhibition
McCahon / Van der Velden

McCahon / Van der Velden

An exhibition of two of New Zealand's most respected painters.

Notes
Canterbury Landscape by Colin McCahon

Canterbury Landscape by Colin McCahon

In 2014 we purchased an important landscape work by Colin McCahon. Curator Peter Vangioni speaks about this new addition to Christchurch Art Gallery’s collection.

Collection
Nor'western Sky
Petrus van der Velden Nor'western Sky

“‘Colour is light’ and there is no darkness at all – there is light or less light. In each part, even the darkest, there is some light and the difficulty is to get the different kinds of light showing in even quite small parts. There are no hard lines in nature – the light shines in and round everything and breaks all the hardness by modifying and diffusing the apparently sharp edges.” —Petrus van der Velden

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Article
Gazumped

Gazumped

One of the exhibitions brought to a halt by the 22 February earthquake was De-Building, which critic Warren Feeney had described only days earlier as 'Christchurch Art Gallery's finest group show since it opened in 2003'. Seven months on, the show's curator, Justin Paton, reflects on random destruction, strange echoes, critical distance, and the 'gazumping of art by life'.

Interview
Otira: it's a state of mind

Otira: it's a state of mind

A short road trip to the Otira Gorge was the scene for a conversation between Gallery curator Peter Vangioni and two of the artists included in Van der Velden: Otira, Jason Greig and the Torlesse Supergroup's Roy Montgomery.

Article
Van der Velden: Otira

Van der Velden: Otira

A first encounter with a painting by Petrus van der Velden more than twenty years ago was the start of many years of research for Gallery curator Peter Vangioni. Peter is the lead author of the Gallery's new book on van der Velden, and talks here of his fascination with the artist's Otira works.

Exhibition
Van der Velden: Otira

Van der Velden: Otira

This exhibition brings together a comprehensive selection of Van der Velden's paintings portraying the wild, untouched natural beauty of the Otira region's mountainous landscape.

Exhibition
Coming Home in the Dark

Coming Home in the Dark

Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.

Collection
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Colin McCahon As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land

‘As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land.’ Colin McCahon quoted this text often on works between the mid-1960s and early 1970s: he took it from the writings of a twelfth-century Japanese Buddhist monk, Shinran, who was the founder of a tradition known as Pure Land Buddhism. McCahon had long been interested in light as a metaphor both for faith and enlightenment, and had begun a related series of dramatic semi-abstract waterfall paintings in 1964, in which a curve of white light cleaved through darkness. Here the landscape element has been reduced to a simple horizon, a dividing line between sky and sea, or sky and land, at the very edge of vision. (March 2018)

Collection
Light falling through a dark landscape (A)
Colin McCahon Light falling through a dark landscape (A)

For the exhibition Untitled #1050 (25 November 2017 – 14 October 2018) this work was displayed with the following label:

“As a painter I may often be more worried about you than you are about me and if I wasn’t concerned I’d not be doing my work properly as a painter. Painting can be a potent way of talking.

“Do you believe in the sunrise?

“My painting year happens first in late winter and early spring. I paint with the season and paint best during the long hot summers. I prefer to paint at night or more especially in the late summer afternoons when, as the light fades, tonal relationships become terrifyingly clear.

“At night I paint under a very large incandescent light bulb. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I am only now, and slowly, becoming able to paint in the morning. After a lifetime of working – farming, factories, gardening, teaching, the years at the Auckland City Art Gallery – I find it hard to paint in the world’s usual work-time. It can be difficult to accept that painting too is work.”

—Colin McCahon, 1972

Collection
Van Gogh: Poems by John Caselberg
Colin McCahon Van Gogh: Poems by John Caselberg

Vincent van Gogh was an artist with whom McCahon strongly identified. He produced this suite of lithographs based on several poems about the troubled Dutch artist written by his close friend John Caselberg.

As an aside, van Gogh had met van der Velden in Holland on several occasions, and in 1883 wrote to his brother Theo of his admiration for the artist:

I met Van der V. once, and he made a good impression on me at the time. I was reminded of the character of Felix Holt [the main character in George Eliot's novel Felix Holt, The Radical, who favoured a life of working class poverty over the comforts afforded through the wealth within his reach]. There’s something broad and rough in him that pleases me greatly – something like the roughness of torchon [a rough-surfaced paper]. A man who evidently doesn’t seek civilization in outward things but is much further inwardly, much, much further than most people. In short, he’s a true artist, and I’d like to get to know him for I would trust him and I’m sure I would learn from him.

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Windmill by Moonlight
Petrus van der Velden Windmill by Moonlight

“The greatest of all lessons is to learn to see. Many are ‘colour blind’ till they have their eyes opened to nature’s lessons, which she is always trying to teach us. But we must always tell what nature says to us, simply and directly without pretence or falsehood. Tell the Truth. Christ was the greatest artist. His words and pictures are a simple telling of nature's lessons – they are always the Truth. ‘We reason with colours. Colours are dead’, but by telling what nature teaches us the dead colours enable us to express the wonders and beauties of the Creator’s work.”

—Petrus van der Velden

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is
Colin McCahon Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is

In April 1958 Colin McCahon travelled to the US, responding both to the expansiveness of the American landscape and to the modern American painting that he saw in museums. On his return, his works increased in scale while economising in gesture: the landscape elements of Tomorrow have been reduced to a horizon and lowering sky, with the land bisected by a grey river. He converted his Titirangi garage into a studio, and built an extra bedroom for his children underneath. The studio was gloomy – there was only one small side window for light when the garage door was closed – but it precipitated dozens of new works. Tomorrow was an unfortunate painting, said McCahon, ‘in that it wouldn’t go right, and I got madder and madder. I hurled a whole lovely quart tin of black Dulux at the board and reconstructed the painting out of the mess.’ The black paint (a commercial flooring paint, mixed with sand) dripped down the surface of the work and ran between wide cracks in the studio floorboards, ruining clothes and bed linen in his sons’ room below. He finally finished the painting in May 1959.

(March 2018)

Collection
Atmospheric Study, Sumner
Petrus van der Velden Atmospheric Study, Sumner

Petrus van der Velden valued the medium of drawing as highly as painting and was an extremely talented draughtsman. Spontaneously drawn outdoors directly before the subject, this small study shows Van der Velden’s interest in depicting dramatic, stormy atmospheric conditions with strong contrasts of light and dark. In the early 1890s, van der Velden and his family settled in Sumner, Christchurch where they stayed with the Van Asch family. Van der Velden immediately went about sketching in the region, and by the end of the year he had completed several major paintings based on Sumner scenes. Born in Rotterdam, van der Velden established himself as a painter, particularly of marine subjects, before he and his wife emigrated from Holland in 1890. He struggled to make a living in Christchurch, however, and moved to Sydney in 1898. He returned to settle in Wellington in 1904 and died in Auckland.

Collection
Mount Rolleston and the Otira River
Petrus van der Velden Mount Rolleston and the Otira River

Van der Velden described his first visit to the Otira Gorge: 'For the first three days I did nothing at all but just looked, it took my breath away.'

The lines between religion and art were blurred for van der Velden, and he often drew similarities between the two: 'There is as much nonsense talked about art as Jesus and because it's the same business nothing is understood. Tell the people sometime that Rembrandt and Jesus have the same meaning; how they would laugh, and yet it is true – Rembrandt made a study of light during his life, and Jesus did nothing else.'

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Blind V
Colin McCahon Blind V

The word ‘blind’ refers to a screen that cuts out light, but Colin McCahon also uses it to refer to an absence of vision. Questions of faith were important to McCahon and he often used references to blindness to suggest the inability to see the real essence and value of things. McCahon’s style was highly personal and distinctive. Blind V is part of a series of five works painted onto window blinds. The abstract forms have the feel of a beach and sky and it has been suggested that the ‘blindness’ which McCahon refers to was the inability of New Zealanders to really see and appreciate their own unique environment.

McCahon is regarded by many as New Zealand’s greatest contemporary artist. Born in Timaru, he studied art in Dunedin. He lived in Christchurch for a time, became keeper and assistant director at Auckland Art Gallery, then lecturer in painting at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, before taking up painting full time in 1970.

Collection
Sumner
Petrus van der Velden Sumner

“Colour is light, light is love and love is God and therefore on Sundays instead of going to church I teach my children drawing after nature. I have come to the conclusion that painting or drawing after nature, instead of being a luxury is the most necessary for the education of man. […] The aim of our existence is nothing else than to study nature and with so doing to understand more and more how grand and pure nature is and gives evidence of so much love.”

—Petrus van der Velden

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Northland drawings
Colin McCahon Northland drawings

“Once more it states my interest in landscape as a symbol of place and also of the human condition. It is not so much a portrait of a place as such but is a memory of a time and an experience of a particular place.” —Colin McCahon

(McCahon / Van der Velden, 18 December 2015 – 7 August 2016)

Collection
Nor’western Sky
Petrus van der Velden Nor’western Sky

The hot, dry nor'west winds of Canterbury produce dramatic cloud formations and an atmospheric light. Petrus van der Velden has captured these effects with what is probably Christchurch's River Avon in the foreground. He lived near the river between 1890 and 1893. The colonial woman bent over, occupied with her task of work, has echoes of his earlier Dutch paintings, which focused on Dutch peasants at work. Van der Velden painted in a realist manner, which was influenced by his association with the Dutch Hague School of painters who favoured dark sombre tones and a loose style of brushwork. The nor'west scene is created by using strong contrasts of light and shade (chiaroscuro). Born in Rotterdam, Van der Velden established himself as a painter, particularly of marine subjects, in Holland, from where he emigrated in 1890. However, he struggled to make a living in Christchurch and in 1898 went to Sydney. He returned to settle in Wellington in 1904 but died in Auckland.