BROWN, Nigel;

Poet Three Times (triptych)

Oil on canvas
1600 x 1035mm (each piece); 1600 x 3105mm (overall)

Inscriptions: POET THREE TIMES 1 ; NIGEL BROWN 1980 / WELLINGTON [l., panel 1] 2 NIGEL BROWN 1980 / WELLINGTON ; POET THREE TIMES [l., panel 2] 3 NIGEL BROWN 1980 / WELLINGTON ; POET THREE TIMES [l. panel 3]

The subject of this trio of paintings is the New Zealand poet James K. Baxter. With Colin McCahon, Baxter is Aotearoa’s major religious artist of the post-war period. Nigel Brown has depicted him several times. As a school pupil, he heard the poet read his works; while he was at Elam School of Fine Arts, he frequently saw him and heard him read. Both had a cynical regard for the value of what was being achieved at Elam during the early 1970s. It was partly Baxter’s influence that encouraged Brown to give up his studies for a period while he lived on Waiheke Island. Baxter’s self-appointed role as a living critique of New Zealand society made him an appropriate subject for Brown’s visual criticisms, although he has dissociated himself from Baxter’s very public, almost seer-like role, saying that he considered himself a suburban man, painting from the midst of life rather than pontificating from a distance. Brown used Baxter as a symbol rather than as subject for portraiture. In Poet Three Times, the artist attains monumentality as a poet/prophet figure.


Challenge Collection (later Fletcher Trust Collection), purchased from Louise Beale Gallery, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 25 February 1981

The Fletcher Trust Collection is one of the largest curated private collections of Aotearoa art. The Trust makes works available online as well as via exhibitions initiated by public art institutions and by the Trust itself.

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