Mts. Owen, Arthur and Campbell from Motueka

Woollaston, Tosswill
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Toss Woollaston is one of the pioneers of, and central figures in, New Zealand art in the twentieth century. Born in Taranaki in 1910, he moved to the Nelson district in 1928, where he was based for the rest of his life. Living with his family in a clay hut in Motueka during the early years of his career, Woollaston worked in an orchard, sketching his family during the evenings. The weekends were devoted to landscape painting.

For years he struggled against public indifference and often outright hostility to his work. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that he was able to devote himself to painting full-time and the scale of his work increased.

Woollaston painted the people and the landscape that were closest to him, in an expressionist, roughly-hewn style. He says “ I end up painting the things I see every day. What you paint is what becomes exciting when you’ve looked at it a hundred times. That’s the difference between paintings and tourist post-cards” Like the work of his major influence Paul Cezanne, Woollaston’s paintings are carefully structured and balanced to match his inner vision.

Woollaston painted as a response to his environment, his work embodying a visceral authenticity. The scale of the work means your body has to be involved. He philosophised that “painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realising one’s sensations” and as a result his works were Expressionist in style, establishing emotional connections with his surroundings through utilising a responsive palette, expressive brushstrokes and an intimate eye. He did not seek to represent the world, but paint it as he felt it, a process that requires establishing a sensitive involvement with the land so as to express oneself amongst it.

Mounts Owen, Arthur and Campbell from Motueka embodies this deep affinity with his chosen landscape, capturing its rhythms, colours and vitality. “I want to paint the sunlight but after it has been absorbed by the earth”.

Toss Woollaston was knighted in 1979 and died in 1998.
Oil on board
Frame: hxw; 1215mm x 2714
Breadth 12mm
Registration number



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