Petrus van der Velden

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

Still Life

  • Presented by the family of A. F. Nicoll, 1960
  • Oil on board
  • 715 x 1050mm
  • 69/214
  • c. 1888

Petrus van der Velden was celebrated as a distinguished European artist on arriving in Christchurch in June 1890, when his immediate goals were also made known. His published intention, while ‘at present staying with his countryman, Mr Van Asch, at Sumner’, was ‘to make a long sojourn in the colony for the purpose of thoroughly exploring its beauties and making pictures of the scenes which take his fancy’. Van der Velden is known to have exhibited just one still life painting in the Netherlands, Stilleven, in a solo exhibition held in Rotterdam in October 1890, four months after his arrival in New Zealand. A contemporary reviewer noted that ‘all his paintings are treated in a dark colouring with remarkable light effects’, a description matching this work. A friend later sent out paintings to New Zealand; this dynamic study of summer’s harvest shows the same spirited approach that he would soon bring to painting the New Zealand landscape and is almost certainly the work shown in Rotterdam.

(The Weight of Sunlight, 16 September 2017 - 16 September 2018)

earlier labels about this work
  • Still life was a genre developed in Holland and Flanders in the 17th century. It was popular with the public but was given a relatively low status within the art academies. This painting was owned by the Christchurch artist Archibald F. Nicoll (1886-1953). As well, he owned several of Van der Velden sketchbooks, which were also gifted to the Gallery. Showing the influence of the realist style of the Dutch Hague School of painters, Van der Velden has here used a loose technique with dark tones. The dark background draws attention to the fruit and produce. Van der Velden did very few still life works, concentrating on portraiture and landscape subjects. 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 was living in Auckland when he died.

    (Label date unknown)