‘Gordon, I’m stuck. Come round and help me.’ An unfinished canvas would be lying on the floor . . . we would do a lot of looking . . . as we talked through various aspects of the work, especially those features which troubled McCahon.
Gordon H Brown (born 1931) first met Colin McCahon (1919–1987), considered New Zealand’s greatest 20th-century artist, at McCahon’s Christchurch home in 1952. As a first-year art student and with a letter of introduction from poet James K Baxter, Brown engaged McCahon’s attention by commenting on an obvious interest in Cubism in a painting that lent against a sofa in the living room. Thus, began a close life-long friendship.
The E H McCormick Research Library has recently been donated the Gordon H Brown Archive. These personal papers encompass Brown’s wide-ranging careers in the art world including as Auckland Art Gallery’s first librarian (1965–69) following a similar job at Elam School of Art, curator of pictures at the Hocken Library and director of both Waikato Art Gallery, Waikato and Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui.
The Archive is particularly rich in material on McCahon’s life and work. Brown meticulously collected both published and primary resources, and having a resource of such extraordinary depth to hand, facilitated his being able to speak and write extensively on McCahon.
Brown’s scholarship has been recognised with the granting of an OBE for services to Art History in 1989 and, in 2002, an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Victoria University, Wellington.
Gordon H Brown at Colin McCahon: Gates and Journeys, Auckland Art Gallery, 1988. E H McCormick Research Library Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
- Research Library Display Case Mezzanine level