51 Woollaston Drawings and Watercolours

This exhibition is now closed

An exhibition of works on paper toured by the Suter Art Gallery and The New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Council with assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council

In 1979 the year of his knighthood, Sir Tosswill Woollaston generously gifted 101 watercolours and drawings to The Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson. The Gallery Director, Austin Davies, was given access to the artist's entire collection. From over 5000 works 101 were selected for the Suter, establishing it as the largest and most representative collection of the artist's works on paper. From these, 51 works have been chosen to form this important exhibition.

Toss Woollaston, like Colin McCahon and Rita Angus, is recognised as a major figure in the shaping of New Zealand art from the limited academic institutions of the 1930's and 1940's. His individualism and determination to pursue a unique direction was an attribute in common with the new generation of painters, committed to painting in New Zealand. For over 30 years Woollaston received little recognition for his work and found it necessary to take various casual jobs to support himself and his family. Not until the 1960's was he able to work as a full time artist.

His immediate environment, people and places, have played a significant part in Woollaston's work. The catalogue accompanying this exhibition, with an essay by John Caselberg, groups the works into two area: portrait (and figure) and landscape. Forty years separate the "Study of Edith" (for the well-known oil "Portraits of the Artist's Wife" in the collection of the Auckland City Art Gallery) and the 1977 ink wash drawing "Edith at Riwaka". Woollaston's subjects include his family, his wife Dame Edith, son Philip (Member of Parliament for Nelson), daughter (painter, Anna Caselberg) and various friends and neighbours.

Woollaston constantly acknowledges the important influence of Cezanne on his work. The early drawings show a remarkable assimilation of Cezanne's concern for rendering form; Wollaston's won looser more expressionistic style emerged later. This exhibition also reveals the constant re-exploration of subjects, another quality shared by Cezanne.

This is the first national touring exhibition of Woollaston works on paper. Spanning four decades "51 Woollaston Watercolours and Drawings" is broadly representative of the artist's work and includes many historically significant drawings, most of which have not been seen outside Nelson.

This exhibition is the first of three planned by the Suter Gallery particularly to suit the needs of smaller galleries while maintaining the quality of the larger touring shows. "51 Woollaston Watercolours and Drawings" is being toured by the Suter Art Gallery and The New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Council with assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council.

Click here to see all works in our own collection by Toss Woollaston.