Gordon Walters


Untitled by Gordon Walters

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During the 1950s Gordon Walters made watercolour, gouache and ink drawings on an almost daily basis. This was a studio practice that Theo Schoon, his mentor, had encouraged since they first met in 1941. In 1948 Walters spent a year living in Sydney and he also made visits to Melbourne. While In Australia he made a specific study of Aboriginal art especially rock engravings and bark paintings.

In March 1950 Gordon Walters travelled to London where he lived for the year. During regular trips to Paris he visited the Denise Rene Gallery where he studied the paintings of Victor Vasarely and Auguste Herbin; seeing also paintings Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee. While in Melbourne during 1951, he painted his first non-figurative work. He then returned to New Zealand to work at Wellington.

1955 was a productive year for Gordon Walters. He worked at the Government Printing Office but travelled regularly to Auckland (1953-56) where he met up with Theo Schoon, Peter Webb, Denis Knight Turner and Ross Fraser.

Other gouache studies of 1955 such as Untitled II and Untitled III 1955 (Dame Jenny Gibbs collection) have a more restricted palette, often using only 3 tones. Some of the 1955 studies are variants of drawings made by Rolfe Grave Hattaway which were subsequently copied by Theo Schoon.

Untitled 17 March 1955 is loosely based on illustrations of the cell structure of plants which Walters collected and kept in a notebook. The painting reveals how the daily studies which Gordon Walters was making are among the more inventive non-figurative paintings then being made in New Zealand six decades ago. Walters did not exhibit any of his 1950s paintings at the time they were made as the artist believed that the art community in New Zealand would not support exhibitions of abstract painting.

Untitled 17 March 1955 has, almost certainly, not been exhibited previously. Walters exhibited a suite of his 1950s gouache paintings from September 4th to September 20th 1974 at Petar Vuletic’s Petar James Gallery, Auckland and another group at the Peter McLeavey Gallery from October 15th to October 31st 1974.

Production date
17 Mar 1955
Size (h x w)
520 x 438 x 46 mm
Signed lower left. G Walters ‘55.
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2015
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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