From the Thames to the Nile


19 July, 1997
— 24 September, 1997


Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago Library


Dunedin, New Zealand

Exhibition notes by Louise Sinclair, July 1997:
In the early decades of this century, the evolution of a mature character in New Zealand painting stemmed as much from the departure of young artists overseas as it did from any prospect of their being successfully nurtured at home. The particular reasons motivating individual artists to travel varied, but some were common to all. Many artists felt a frustrating sense of isolation; the geographical distance compounding the artistic separation from Europe. Their feelings were heightened by the perception that the local artworld was confined and provincial in outlook. Such an environment provided scant opportunity for survival, let alone artistic success. The numbers in which they abandoned New Zealand for the north might suggest a form of cultural betrayal. However, the emigration of the artists was a predictable response to the artistic ambitions brought to them by their European teachers notably Girolamo Nerli, Petrus van der Velden and James Nairn. This exhibition includes works from selected first generation expatriate artists with particular emphasis on subjects which indicate the geographical breadth of their European and North African journeys.

The need to broaden the horizon through exposure to and immersion in northern hemisphere cultures has been an impetus felt by artists of succeeding generations. To illustrate this selected works from the northern excursions of Evelyn Page and Alan Pearson are included. Both artists have been eloquent in describing how the experience of particular European countries has been crucial in the evolution of their artistic styles.

Exhibition artworks


Exhibition reviews

‘From the Thames to the Nile’ by Logan Sisley, The Critic, Art Effects, issue 18, 7 August 1997, pg 24, “The works in this exhibition are predominantly from the 1900s to the 1930s. The title indicates what 'abroad' meant to these artists: Europe and North Africa. The exhibition offers insights into the cultural attitudes of New Zealanders earlier this century. Many artists felt isolated and undervalued here in a time when national cultural identity was in its formative stages, pakeha New Zealand looked back to Europe ... The works themselves show the influence of modernist movements – impressionism, expressionism, cubism – albeit somewhat later than when they were 'cutting edge' in Europe. They are mostly landscapes, sometimes peopled, offering something more studied than a tourist snap.”

'Art Scene' by Richard Dingwall, Otago Daily Times, 22 July 1997, pg 10, “Meanwhile at the The Hocken Gallery, a new exhibition of selections from the collection looks at work produced by New Zealand artists abroad ... Among the unfamiliar works are two wonderful paintings by Flora Scales. Scales is well-known in New Zealand art history because of her brief contact with Toss Woollaston and the notes she gave him to copy when she attended the Hans Hofmann School in Munich. This does her the injustice of ignoring her own remarkable work.

The earlier of the two [Greniar [Graniers], St Tropez, Southern France, BC024] shows how advanced her own work was as early as 1938. Even better is the work of her late maturity St Michael [BC041], which has recently come into the Hocken collection from the estate of the late Patricia France, a view of St Michel. Much of the artist's early work was lost in a fire and she spent many years living abroad. This has led to her work being less well known than it deserves.”