Woollaston: The Wallace Arts Trust Collection, 1931 – 1996

The Wallace Arts Trust holds a remarkable collection of works by Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston. Born in rural Taranaki in 1910, long and famously resident in the Nelson district, knighted in 1979 for services to the arts, Toss Woollaston was the veteran of the longest, toughest and best-fought battle for recognition ever won by a New Zealand painter against the resistance of an ambivalent Kiwi public. From the early 1930s he led the struggle to gain acceptance for modern art in New Zealand, and through his life and work inspired generations of new artists to follow his example. 

In 1995 the James Wallace Arts Trust acquired an unparalleled collection of works of art by Woollaston, then widely acknowledged as New Zealand’s greatest living painter. Following this magnificent acquisition the Trust continued to acquire key works by Woollaston, including major late works. More important masterpieces have been added to the collection since the death of the artist, including his last completed and signed work, the magnificent Male Nude of 1996, which shows that
Woollaston was painting at the height of his powers almost to the very end of his long life. 

 

 

 

 

A special feature of the exhibition is the sequence of over 80 studies of ‘Erua’, a Greymouth schoolboy whom Woollaston employed as a model in the early 1960s. ‘Erua’ (a pseudonym chosen to protect the young man’s identity) was Maori and his strongly Polynesian features intrigued the artist as a challenge to his observational abilities and draughtsmanship.  
 
Images in order of appearance 

Toss Woolaston
Erua Series - Watercolour - 1961
Mapua - Oil on Canvas - 1934
Tasman Bay - Oil on Board - 1986