MCCORMACK, Thomas Arthur

Landscape, Hawke’s Bay

c.1940
Watercolour on paper
510 x 650mm

Thomas McCormack OBE, was born at Napier and excelled at drawing while at school. Apart from lessons in pen and ink drawing from R.D. Anderson, an English landscape painter who taught at Napier Technical College, McCormack received no formal art training. He left Napier in 1921 moving to Wellington where he remained, becoming a full time professional artist and using the Hill Street studio occupied by D.K. Richmond. McCormack’s earliest Wellington subjects show his penchant for the coast and the juxtaposition of sea and sky. His watercolours from the late 20s and early 30s could often be confused with those of his old friend Nugent Welch though McCormack’s adventurous disregard for topographical truth in favour of something more suggestive contrasts sharply with Welch’s more conventional approach.

It is difficult not to recognise the high pitched colour and broken brushwork of Impressionism and Oriental watercolours in McCormack’s work. In 1934 McCormack paid many visits to an exhibition of Japanese Colour Prints, one of a number of Oriental art exhibitions which showed in New Zealand during the decade and were to have a profound influence on Rita Angus among others. By the 1940s McCormack’s work had become less decorative and more experimental; he adopted an almost unlimited range of brushwork, from the most sensitive touches to assertively bold, swiftly applied strokes. He gradually developed a fondness for textured and tones paper- usually a warm buff colour. His imagery always appealed to the connoisseur rather than to the lay person as did his restrained, even reticent colour. By the 1940s his paintings had become larger in size and the treatment still more summary, as in Landscape, Hawke’s Bay.

Throughout his long and productive career McCormack achieved a uniquely independent vision which matured almost solely in the confines of New Zealand and with the resources found here. Except for 8 months spent in Australia in 1928 he never left this country.

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