First Impressions: 19th century watercolours of the Auckland region


exhibition Details

Easily transportable, relatively inexpensive and time efficient, watercolours were a convenient means for European settlers in Auckland to express impressions of their new environment in the 19th century. With luminous bright colours, ephemeral swathes of paint and undulating contours, watercolours from the period convey a sense of wonder in encountering a new landscape of boundless horizons and what amateur artist Caroline Abraham described as ‘my own bright land’.

It is tempting to regard historical watercolours as objective records of landscapes. This is particularly the case with the watercolours produced by amateurs purely for personal enjoyment. Yet watercolours, painted by an individual, necessarily express a subjective interpretation of the landscape. Nineteenth-century watercolours often reflect the colonists’ desires to tame, codify and beautify the New Zealand landscape after their own understandings and ideals. Idyllic and picturesque, the watercolours imprint these same qualities onto the land.

In exhibiting works by both amateurs and professionals, First Impressions explores how watercolour was used to convey impressions of the Auckland region, expressing the settlers’ ‘voices . . . among these extensive hills’.

Hear Assistant Curator, Emma Jameson discuss the exhibition with Kim Hill on RNZ.

Curated by
Emma Jameson
Ground level

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