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Colin McCahon & America: Before, During and After


Tue 29 Oct 2019, 6:30pm–8:00pm

Where: Te Papa, 55 Cable St, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Member (Friend of Te Papa): $20.00
  • Student: $23.00
  • Non-member: $25.00
  • Additional fees may apply

Listed by: Friends of Te Papa

The 4 months Colin McCahon spent in America in 1958 mark a watershed in his artistic outlook. In this illustrated talk Peter Simpson will look at how McCahon’s practice was affected by his trip and discuss the art that came out of it.

Firstly he’ll look briefly at McCahon’s knowledge of American art prior to his visit, mainly through journals such as Art News. Secondly, he discusses the visit itself and the art McCahon was exposed to, especially in San Francisco, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and Boston.

Numerous artists are mentioned including Cézanne, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock, Kline, Diebenkorn and Gauguin. Thirdly, he considers the work McCahon made in the prolific year after his return, including The Wake, Northland Panels and the Elias series, and the changes he made to his practice, in scale, subject matter, medium, materials and methodology due in part to what he had seen in the USA. ​

Peter Simpson is a former associate professor of English at the University of Auckland. He is the author of numerous critically acclaimed books including Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years, 1953–1959 (AUP, 2007) and Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933–1953 (AUP, 2016). Peter received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (non-fiction) in 2017.

Peter Simpson has studied Colin McCahon for decades, making him one of the most renowned experts on his work; he has also curated 3 significant exhibitions of McCahon’s work. His lecture with us coincides with the publication of his book Colin McCahon: There Is Only One Direction. Vol.1 1919-1959, the first part of a richly illustrated two-volume work on the evolution of the artist’s work over McCahon’s entire 45 year career.

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