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Object: Storm at Wellington Heads

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Title Storm at Wellington Heads
Production van der Velden, Petrus (artist), circa 1908, Wellington
Medium summary oil on canvas
Materials oil paint, canvas
Classification paintings
Dimensions Support: 1370mm (Height) x 2135mm (Width)
Frame: 1538mm (Height) x 2308mm (Width) x 90mm (Depth)
Credit line Gift of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, 1936
Registration number 1936-0012-115

In this dramatic painting Petrus van der Velden explores the themes of the sublime, a genre of painting which deals with subjects like the insignificance of humanity in the face of nature. Storm at Wellington Heads has all the classic elements of the genre. The foreground figures struggle against the overwhelming storm, and the painting is resolved in a series of oppositions of light and dark in the sea, sky, and rocky coastline.

A Dutch modern
Van der Velden was already an established artist in the Netherlands when he emigrated to New Zealand in 1890. Of van der Velden's work, Vincent van Gogh wrote: 'There is something broad and rough which appeals to me very much - something of the roughness of torchon [a coarse textured paper].' Storm at Wellington Heads illustrates van der Velden's vigorous style which, contrary to appearance, was carefully achieved. The artist would execute many pencil, charcoal, and watercolour studies before undertaking a large oil painting like this one.

New visions of the landscape
Van der Velden is best known for his series of landscapes of the Otira Gorge, Canterbury. Storm at Wellington Heads brings the feeling, power, and meaning of the Otira Gorge images to a different subject. Van der Velden's approach to local landscape was persuasive, and he made a large impact on art in New Zealand, especially in Christchurch, where he set up a studio, and in his teaching laid the foundations of the Canterbury regionalist school of painting.

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