c.1930, 225 x 275mm, Oil on board
John Weeks studied in Scotland during the 1920s with a group of painters who were familiar with French modernism, particularly the work of Paul Cézanne, to whom he was thereafter indebted. He also became confident about the bold use of colour. This sense was deepened during the year or so he spent in North Africa, where he did extensive work in pastel. Some of the drawings were worked up into paintings in later years. Before returning to New Zealand in 1929, Weeks spent some time studying at the André Lhote Academy in Paris. There, his work acquired the structural strength (some have called it ‘soft cubism’) that seemed to give it a distinctly modern flavour when he showed paintings back home.
For many years, Weeks taught at Elam School of Art, influencing a whole generation of students. The impact of his teaching has not been properly assessed and his contribution to Aotearoa painting remains neglected. It is significant that in 1955 a large scale retrospective exhibition of his best work was destroyed in a fire at Elam on the eve of its national tour. Weeks never recovered from this severe blow. His abstracts began as stylised analyses of still lifes or seated figures. Only gradually did he come to view abstraction as something quite distinct from representation. His Chromatic Colour Structure moves in that direction, the title alerting us to the fact.
A more extensive biography is available on Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.