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Object: Indian summer

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Title Indian summer
Production Albrecht, Gretchen (artist), 1974, Auckland
Medium summary acrylic on canvas
Materials acrylic paint, canvas
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 1525mm (Height) x 1675mm (Length)
Frame: 1610mm (Height) x 1761mm (Length) x 48mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1975 with Ellen Eames Collection funds
Registration number 1975-0009-1

This painting is part of a series that Gretchen Albrecht made in the 1970s while living in Titirangi on the fringes of Auckland. Albrecht often made visits to the beach at Karekare and Whatipü where she would create quick watercolour sketches of the landscape at sunset. Back in her studio these studies were transformed into large paintings like Indian Summer, in which thin layers of acrylic paint were poured and 'spilled' onto unprimed canvas.

Connections to American art
The technique of 'staining' unprimed canvas with thin acrylic paint was pioneered in the United States during the 1950s by Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. Their work was heralded by the American critic Clement Greenberg, who saw the pictorial effects of this technique as the latest development in modern art, and the successor to artists like Jackson Pollock. Albrecht was able to see Louis's Veil paintings in 1971 when an exhibition of his work came to the Auckland City Art Gallery, and she quickly adopted a similar technique in works like Indian Summer. Part of the appeal to Albrecht was the exhilarating physical involvement in the act of painting.

Landscape painting in New Zealand
Albrecht's Indian Summer is part of a long tradition of landscape painting in New Zealand. While its title is generalised, a celebration of a season or state rather than a place, the horizontal bands of acrylic read like a landscape or skyscape with layers of clouds tinted by a setting sun. Like the painting of Colin McCahon, Indian Summer is complicated by its emphasis on its own representation - it never lets the viewer forget that it's an abstract image constructed from horizontal swathes of acrylic paint. This dual awareness on the viewer's part is what gives Indian Summer its aesthetic power.

Indian Summer is one of fifteen works by Albrecht in Te Papa's collection.

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