Manukau 1954

Another small series completed during McCahon’s first summer in Auckland was entitled Manukau, closely related to the Towards Auckland paintings but with a different subject matter and more various in medium; some were watercolours, others gouaches, and others again oil paintings.


Manukau 1954


Date: c 1954

Medium: gouache

Dimensions: 445mm x 755mm

Collection: private collection

As he wrote in 1969:

The pictures based on the Manukau Harbour followed [Towards Auckland]: in them I looked in the other direction, away from Auckland. (ACAG Quarterly, p. 8).

The landscape subject is still recognisable as a ‘scene’—water, beach, boats, islands in the harbour, an aeroplane, clouds, the pohutukawa-fringed coastline—but the view is subjected to various kinds of deformation, especially by the use of diagonal and curving lines to break up the picture surface, creating a kind of faceting, an Antipodean adaptation of certain Cubist effects. Above all, the paintings are full of warm and brilliant light and colour, reflecting the artist’s delight in his new surroundings.

In March 1954 McCahon wrote to John Caselberg summing up the results of his first intensive period of painting since moving to Auckland:

Have done more since coming here than for years—since 1947 which was my last prolific period. A large series of Auckland landscapes, a smaller number of French Bay & a series of paintings & drawings called “Kauri” so you’ll know what they’re about…(Colin McCahon to John Caselberg, 21 March 1954, Answering Hark, p. 46)

He went on to celebrate his enjoyment of the Auckland life-style:

Here it is all so different to Christchurch…the large Maori population—the weather, the landscape—it is the city of N. Z. & is for us here both city & country. Have just acquired a 12ft dinghy…Am leading a most incredibly busy life. At home & at work—so are we all. The kids had the best summer holiday ever—at the beach & in the bush all the time—almost none of the Chch boredom, and all so brown & well. (Answering Hark, p. 47)

In his first year in Auckland McCahon completed at least 70 works, more than twice his output in a more normal year.


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