James Nairn

Wharf at Kaikoura with S.S. Wakatu

Wharf at Kaikoura with S.S. Wakatu by James Nairn

Artwork Detail

James McLachlan Nairn emigrated to New Zealand for health reasons, arriving in 1890. His early association with the Glasgow School, a group of Scottish impressionists, meant that he was committed to painting directly from nature. Usually working on small cardboard panels, Nairn would emulate the French impressionists by painting versions of the same subject under varying atmospheric conditions. His friend and pupil M. E. R. Tripe reported that 'when away on a sketching tour Nairn used to say that one should do three sketches each day - one before breakfast, another at 12, and a third after three o'clock in the afternoon'. The Gallery holds another, slightly smaller oil sketch on cardboard, Sunset, which Nairn probably executed later that same day in Kaikoura, showing the wharf reduced to a silhouette, transfigured before a blazing sky. Wellington critics labelled his work as 'bilious' and 'chromatic lunacy' but Nairn was resolute: 'I shall always make a point of trying to outrage the taste of the ordinary public, as I do not want them to like my work'. He was an important teacher who galvanised a group of enthusiastic students, and at weekends and holidays they would join him at Pumpkin Cottage in Silverstream for sketching, 'a few bottles of lunch', and perhaps even Jimmy Nairn on the bagpipes. (from The Guide, 2001)

Wharf at Kaikoura with S.S. Wakatu
James Nairn
Production date
oil on academy board
260 x 337 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1961
Accession no
Other ID
61/46 Old Accession Number
No known copyright restrictions
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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