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.