Colin McCahon (1919–87) is widely regarded as New Zealand’s pre-eminent 20th century artist. He combined a great ability to experiment in his art with a keen interest in what he called ‘the human condition’.
The paintings in this gallery reflect the range of McCahon’s interests – in Maori culture, questions of religious faith, conservation, and the environment. Spanning 15 years of his late work, they exploit the dramatic power of white against a black background. McCahon uses white to suggest the possibility of spiritual illumination – the triumph of life over death, faith over doubt, hope over despair.
Te Papa holds 71 works by McCahon. A number were acquired by the former Curator of Historical New Zealand Art, the late William McAloon (1969–2012), whose scholarship did so much to enrich the Museum’s collection and public programmes.