Drawing its inspiration from the sea, this exhibition highlights the Gallery's collection of maritime paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and ceramics, alongside scrimshaw from Canterbury Museum's collection.
Views from the safe confines of the harbour are displayed alongside vivid images of ships braving wild storms and disasters on the high seas. Several artists explore the idea of being lost at sea, through literary classics Moby Dick and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Historical favourites by the likes of John Gibb and Petrus van der Velden hang alongside more modern artists such as Tony Fomison, Olivia Spencer Bower and Max Gimblett but all draw their inspiration from the sea.
A small but poetic exhibition looking at early European and Māori representations of seafaring vessels, with the Charlotte Jane as a focal point.
Reading the Swell
The art of the sea has always been the art of vastness—without edges and with potential for infinite extension. It is this immensity that has invaded the Reading the Swell exhibition; finding its way through the automatic doors when no one is looking and quietly expanding the walls. Like sailors, artists have laid soundings in this uncharted vastness. Reading the Swell is a small and pointed selection of those soundings that see fit to make sense of the sea.
Petrus van der Velden began his career as a commercial lithographer, where attention to detail was a crucial aspect of the job. There, his skills as a draughtsman were honed and he became adept at creating extremely detailed representations of towns and landscapes. In 1867, when he decided to become a painter, he was able to transfer these skills to his canvases as we see in The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam. Van der Velden’s accomplishment in conveying the details of the bustling harbour scene at the Leuvehaven is extraordinary. The rigging, sails and masts of various ships are represented in pinpoint detail, as are the people going about their daily business.
(New Dawn Fades, November 2018)
This work depicts St Ives Bay. To the right is Godrevy lighthouse.
As with Petrus van der Velden’s The Leuvehaven, this painting by John Gibb provides a view of a bustling port where ships come and go, unloading and loading their cargo. By 1886, when this painting was completed, the town of Lyttelton / Ōhinehou had been settled by pākehā for just over thirty-six years, and the port had become one of New Zealand’s busiest. Lyttelton Harbour / Whakaraupō provided welcome refuge for ships from the Pacific Ocean beyond the harbour heads, particularly once the breakwater had been completed. Gibb's painting shows fishing boats, sailing and steam ships, a launch and even a rowboat plying the sheltered waters of the harbour, busily going about their business. It was first shown at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1886, where it would have served well in promoting the progressive industriousness of the port and the prosperity of the Canterbury Province to an international audience.
(Reading the Swell 3 September 2016 – 6 February 2017)
This article first appeared as 'Artist left all at sea by changing tides' in The Press on 6 December 2016
Although one of the smallest oil paintings in the permanent collection William Wyllie's The Sloping Deck is a powerful and terrifying image of a ship being wrecked on rocks.
This article first appeared as 'Lost painting found' in The Press on 2 November 2012.
Last year the Gallery acquired this magnificent early work by Petrus van der Velden: