Oil on canvas on board
1218 x 764mm
Inscriptions: C. M. / March / '58. [l.l.] TOP / COLIN McCAHON / c/o ART GALLERY / AUCKLAND / PAINTING 1958 / OIL ; 150gns / THIS IS THE PROPERTY / of / Hay's Ltd. / Christchurch [verso]
cm000934 on the Colin McCahon Online Catalogue.
Painting (1958), with its large dark and light forms and the sense of gaps or spaces between, is generally regarded as a precursor to the Gate series begun in 1961. These are large and simple geometric shapes, which emerged from McCahon’s ‘landscape’ paintings of the 1950s, such as French Bay. Gradually, as the works approached abstraction, landscape forms, even horizons, became unrecognisable. For McCahon, they were identified with the notion of great obstructions, especially the fear of the atomic bomb and the hope for a ‘way through’.
Painting was the joint winner of the Hay’s Art Prize in 1960 and was purchased by Hay’s Limited, Ōtautahi. (It is probable that it was begun in 1958, as it is dated, and worked on again later for submission.) The judges, Russell Clark and John Simpson, both lecturers at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts, and Peter Tomory, director of the Auckland City Art Gallery, failed to agree on a single winner and awarded the first prize jointly to McCahon, Francis Jones, for Kanieri Gold Dredge, and Julian Royd, for Composition. The artists shared the first, second, and third place prize money, each receiving 175 pounds.
The decision was a subject of controversy in Ōtautahi newspapers; the generally held view was that McCahon’s piece was incomprehensible. In 1961, after heated debate, the Christchurch City Council declined the offer of all three winning works to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery (later Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū).
A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Tāmaki Makaurau, 10 August 2019 to 27 March 2020
Representation and Reaction: Modernism and the New Zealand Landscape Tradition 1956–1977, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui, 31 August to 27 October 2002 (toured)
Colin McCahon: Gates and Journeys, Auckland City Art Gallery (later Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), Tāmaki Makaurau, 11 November 1988 to 26 February 1989
When Art Hits the Headlines, National Art Gallery (later the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa), Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 11 December 1987. to 14 February 1988
McCahon: A Singular Vision, Robert McDougall Art Gallery (later Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū), Ōtautahi, 16 February to 16 March 1983
Colin McCahon: A Survey Exhibition, Auckland City Art Gallery (later Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), Tāmaki Makaurau, 7 March 1972 to 23 April 1972
A Retrospective Exhibition: M. T. Woollaston – Colin McCahon, Auckland City Art Gallery (later Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), Tāmaki Makaurau, 20 May to 4 June 1963
Hay’s Art Prize, Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery, Ōtautahi, 30 August 17 September 1960
Martin Edmond, Endless Yet Never (Tāmaki Makaurau: McCahon House Trust, 2020), 7.
Purchased from International Art Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau, March 1987, by Denis Cohn, under instruction from Margaret, Lady Trotter. Originally owned by Hay’s Limited. Passed to Wright Stephenson & Company Limited, then Brierley Investments, then the Farmers Trading Company Limited, then Chase Corporation. A Chase employee rescued the work from being used as packing material and consigned it to International Art Centre.