Petrus van der Velden

Otira Gorge

Otira Gorge by Petrus van der Velden

Artwork Detail

'. . . at all times when the thunder rolled, and wind howled and rain poured, Van der Velden would go into the gorge, whereas at those times when the sun shone from a cloudless sky, he would lie with his back to the grass near the hotel and sleep.' Thus Petrus Van der Velden was famously described by a resident of Ötira, the rugged west coast location which he immortalised in a series of paintings. This dark, dramatic depiction of Ötira Gorge, expressively rendered in broadly-applied, thick impasto layers, evokes the thunderous conditions signifying God's sublime presence in Nature. Born in Rotterdam, Van der Velden was a successful painter connected with the Hague School of Realists when he left for New Zealand aged 53, supposedly disillusioned with nepotism in the Dutch art scene. Establishing himself as a teacher in Christchurch, he participated in local art exhibitions and encountered both admiration and envy among his fellow practitioners. With little exposure to European methods and techniques in New Zealand, the influence of his style was soon widespread. Although he visited Ötira only twice, the gorge became his leitmotif. From innumerable preparatory studies made on the spot he worked up large, finished oils in his studio, revisiting the subject in search of a range of meanings. The significance he attached to the Ötira works is evidenced by a late self-portrait, in the background of which is the Auckland painting. (from The Guide, 2001)

Otira Gorge
Petrus van der Velden
Production date
oil on canvas
1845 x 1330 x 57 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1913
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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