Lecture series Colin McCahon: Peter Simpson


event Details

The exhibition A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland opens on 10 August, coinciding with the centenary of Colin McCahon’s birth in August 1919. McCahon arrived in Auckland in the early 1950s to work at Auckland Art Gallery. This move and his new role started an energetic period for the artist during which he balanced a successful working life with an increasingly productive time as an artist.

The exhibition’s focus lies in the significance of Auckland City on McCahon’s development as an artist and its presence in his painting. In the accompanying lecture series McCahon: Artist, Curator, Spouse, prominent guest speakers will unpack lesser-known stories about McCahon’s life and practice.

Lecture 4, Sun 3 Nov, 10.30am–12.30pm
Peter Simpson – Colin McCahon and America: Before, During and After

The four months Colin McCahon spent in America in 1958 mark a watershed in his development. In this illustrated talk Peter Simpson first looks briefly at McCahon’s knowledge of American art prior to his visit. Secondly, he discusses the visit itself and the art McCahon was exposed to, especially in San Francisco, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Boston and Chicago. Thirdly, he considers the work McCahon made in the prolific year after his return, including The Wake, Northland Panels and the Elias series, and the various ways in which it was affected by what he had seen in the United States. ​

About the speaker

Peter Simpson is a former associate professor of English at the University of Auckland. He is the author of numerous critically acclaimed books including Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years, 1953–1959 (AUP, 2007) and Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933–1953 (AUP, 2016). Peter received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (non-fiction) in 2017.

Peter Simpson has studied Colin McCahon for decades, making him one of the most renowned experts on McCahon. He has curated three significant exhibitions of McCahon’s work, two shown at Auckland Art Gallery, including Answering Hark: Caselberg/McCahon, Poet-Painter (2001). His lecture at Auckland Art Gallery coincides with the launch of his book Colin McCahon: There Is Only One Direction. Vol.1 1919-1959, the first part of a richly illustrated two-volume work on the evolution of the artist’s work over McCahon’s entire forty-five-year career.

Please refer to our events page for information about the additional lectures and the guest speakers that feature within this series.

Image credits: Peter Simpson, photo by Marti Friedlander; A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland, (installation view), Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2019. 



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