Events In History

  • 27 May 1987
    Death of Colin McCahon

    Colin McCahon is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest painters. A risk-taker and a nonconformist, he engaged with questions of religion, faith and the human condition through his art. Read more...

  • 13 May 1947
    Death of Frances Hodgkins

    One of this country's most celebrated artists, Frances Hodgkins spent most of her life overseas. She earned a place among the British avant-garde of the 1930s and 1940s – the first New Zealand-born artist to achieve such stature.  Read more...


Links - arts and literature

History of New Zealand painting

  • History of New Zealand painting

    Early European painting in New Zealand was dominated by landscapes and images of exotic Māori. From the 1890s the local art scene was boosted by the arrival of professional painters from Europe. But it wasn't until the 1930s and 40s that a distinct style of painting began to emerge here.

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  • Page 2 – Beginnings

    While the first New Zealand artists often had scenic interests, they were also influenced by art historical practices and beliefs.

  • Page 3 – Influence of European modernism

    1890–1900 Wellington Harbour, James Nairn

  • Page 4 – A new New Zealand art

    In the 1930s and 1940s a distinctly New Zealand style of painting began to emerge - regionalism that is characterised by a preoccupation with place and local identity.

  • Page 5 – Expressionism and abstraction

    The revolutions in early 20th century European art took a long time to influence New Zealand painting. Cubism, for example, took four decades to be accepted here.

  • Page 6 – Contemporary Māori art

    Between 1960 and 1980 a strong resurgence of Maori nationalism and culture developed alongside a growing political voice and demand for the honouring of the Treaty of Waitangi

  • Page 7 – Further information

    Links and books relating to New Zealand art history

First World War art

  • First World War art

    During the First World War official and unofficial New Zealand war artists produced a wide range of works depicting this country's war effort. These works later became part of New Zealand's National Collection of War Art.

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  • Page 3 – Official war art

    The NZEF employed its first official war artist, Lance Corporal Nugent Welch, in April 1918. Welch documented the activities of the New Zealand Division in France and Belgium,

  • Page 4 – Establishing a collection

    Following the end of the war, attention turned to where New Zealand's official First World War art collection would be stored. Plans for a National War Memorial Museum in

  • Page 5 – National Collection of War Art

    There are around 1500 paintings, drawings, sketches, cartoons and prints in New Zealand’s National Collection of War Art. This collection has its origins in the final year of

The 1920s

  • The 1920s

    The 1920s was the decade that modern New Zealand came of age. Despite political and economic uncertainty, the country shrugged off the gloom of war to embrace the Jazz Age - an era of speed, power and glamour. Explore an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of key events.

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  • Page 10 - 1927 - key eventsA selection of key New Zealand events from


  • Heaphy, Charles

    The multi-faceted Charles Heaphy made quite an impact on colonial New Zealand as an artist, explorer, soldier and colonial administrator. He was the first colonial soldier to win the Victoria Cross.

  • Lye, Leonard Charles Huia

    Len Lye is a controversial figure in New Zealand art, an internationally renowned and influential film-maker and kinetic sculptor who is seen by some as an outsider whose art has little relevance to the local tradition

  • McCahon, Colin John

    Colin McCahon’s works became some of the most recognisable and celebrated paintings ever to be produced in New Zealand.

  • Woollaston, Mountford Tosswill

    By 1980 Mountford Tosswill (Toss) Woollaston was one of New Zealand’s most widely known contemporary painters; a far cry from his childhood on a dairy farm in the Taranaki backblocks.

  • Hodgkins, Frances Mary

    Frances Hodgkins’ 56-year career as an artist earned her a secure place among the English avant-garde of the 1930s and 1940s. She was the first New Zealand-born artist to achieve such stature.

  • Angas, George French

    The work from artist George French Angas’ 1844 visit to New Zealand recorded a crucial transitional phase of Māori culture under the impact of European settlement.

  • Angus, Rita

    From the 1960s Rita Angus was recognised as one of the leading figures in 20th-century New Zealand art.