Portrait of Mrs Jean O'Connor by Robert Field

Portrait of Mrs Jean O'Connor, 1930, by Robert N. Field.

Robert Nettleton Field (1899–1987), one of the La Trobe Scheme imports, was a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art. He was appointed to the King Edward VII Technical College in Dunedin in 1925. 

Field’s informal and creative approach to teaching contrasted with conventional art instruction. Students were encouraged to find their own direction through imagination and experimentation. Field influenced the artists Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston, among others.

Field’s work shows a knowledge of post-impressionism in its use of expressive colours and brushwork. His simplification and faceting of form are also modern features. His work challenged a New Zealand public which was still overtly traditional and regarded such art with suspicion.

In Field’s early portraits, such as this one of Mrs Jean O’Connor, he used a divisionist manner of applying paint in dot-like dabs. This technique, introduced to England by the artist Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944), was designed to bring more vibrancy to the surface of a painting.

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