Towards Auckland 1953

Looking back in 1972 on his first years in Auckland, McCahon wrote: 

At this time the bush and the harbour were of prime importance as subjects—so was the whole magnificent spread of Auckland seen from Titirangi Road on the endless journeys into town every morning. The November light for that first year was a miracle. It remains an obsession and still a miracle. After the south, the drenching rain and brilliant sun, the shattered clouds after thunder and the rainbows that looped over the city and harbour through the Auckland light produced a series of watercolours calledTowards Auckland. I tried to keep this series together but they eventually were broken up and sold—all over the country. This I regret, but we had to pay for house alterations and so on just to cope with the sizes the children were becoming.(Colin McCahon: a survey exhibition, Auckland City Art Gallery, 1972, p. 22)

Towards Auckland

Towards Auckland

Date: 1953
Medium: crayon & watercolour
Dimensions: 542mm x 745mm
Collection: private collection

In a further comment on the series, McCahon wrote: 

The view is towards the lower reaches of the Waitakeres and shows them as they were before being built up as they are now: a symbol of the city's outer suburbs. The sky is rather interesting because at the time I was particularly taken by the bouncy cloud forms that were quite unlike anything that I had experienced in the south. (‘Colin McCahon: All the paintings, drawings & prints by Colin McCahon in the Gallery’s collection’, Auckland City Art Gallery Quarterly 44, 1969, p. 8) 

The Towards Auckland series, painted in December-January 1953-54, were watercolours, the medium best suited to capturing the brilliant light and the moisture of early summer in Auckland. While environmental features, such as the profile of the ranges, the puffy cumulus clouds and the angular red roofs of houses among trees are easily recognisable, the scenes are abstracted and impressionistic rather than realistic, the images being broken up by curvilinear patterns or diagonal lines reminiscent of certain effects in the paintings of Cézanne or the early Cubist landscapes of Picasso and Braque. A charcoal drawing from 1953, Madame Cézanne at Titirangi, hints at some of the artistic influences McCahon was attempting to assimilate with his new surroundings. Most of the series (together with some of the closely contemporary Manukau series) were exhibited at the Group Show in Christchurch in 1954.

 

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