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North Otago landscape no 2 by Colin McCahon


North Otago landscape no. 2, 1967, by Colin McCahon.

This painting is one of a series of works, North Otago landscapes, which occupied Colin McCahon (1919–87) for most of 1967. Their distinguishing feature is their generalised nature. Detail has been all but eliminated from this painting and the landscape reduced to horizontal bands (or fields) of colour. These are designed to evoke an emotional and contemplative response. The specifics of locality are less important than the symbolic content embodied by the landscape. North Otago landscape no. 2 bears similarities to the works of Colour Field American abstract expressionists.

In his introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition of these works at Auckland’s Barry Lett Gallery in October 1967, McCahon wrote:

These landscapes are based on places I have seen and known ... Unlike many other parts of the country the landforms of North Otago suggest both age and permanence. They have been formed, not by violence, but by the slow processes of normal erosion on more gentle landscape faulting than has happened elsewhere. In painting this landscape I am not trying to show any simple likeness to a specific place. These paintings are most certainly about my long love affair with North Otago as a unique and lonely place, they are also about where I am now ... These paintings stand now as a part of a search begun in Dunedin, continued in Oamaru and developed by the processes of normal erosion since then. The real subject is buried in the works themselves and needs no intellectual striving to be revealed – perhaps they are just North Otago landscapes.


Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Reference: 1969-0014-1
Permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

How to cite this page

North Otago landscape no 2 by Colin McCahon, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated