Evans Bay, Wellington. James McLachlan Nairn (1859-1904). 1893. Oil. 740 x 565 mm. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (1939-0009-6). Bequest from the estate of Miss S. Leatham, 1939. No known copyright restrictions. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
The fisherman, patient, unhurried, perhaps drowsy, moored by the rickety landing-stage at the water's edge.
The overview of James Nairn on the Te Papa Museum website tells us, "Nairn painted a large number of impressions of Wellington Harbour, including views such as Evans Bay. These small landscapes show Nairn’s interest in the effects of light, and the influence of Impressionism on his work." In this case, the fisherman is so much in harmony with the peaceful natural scene. — Jacqueline Banerjee
Commentary by Pamela Gerrish Nunn
Evans Bay, named after an early settler, is on Wellington Harbour, one of several spots which were easily accessible from the city centre and both sheltered and scenic. A deep U-shaped bay situated at the southernmost end of the harbour, it offered extensive views. In such settings the painter (and most often his students as well) could study the effects of light and wind on the spot and in the open air, as modelled in Impressionism. On this occasion, the water is calm, the evening clouds unashamedly pink in the light of the just-set sun, and the shadow is deepening in the foreground as the solitary fisherman returns to shore.
Exhibited in a group of nine works at the Dunedin Art Clubs show of 1893, this painting exemplified Nairn’s independent-minded approach, distinct from the more conservative aesthetic of the regional associations or, in the case of Wellington, academies. These bodies sought primarily to establish a professional standing for New Zealand painters, whereas the Art Clubs pursued aesthetic autonomy, manifested in modern styles and techniques. Thus, although Evans Bay sold directly from the exhibition in 1893, press reviews tended to be rather dubious about its merits, observing that this kind of work was "not of the class that ordinary tuition leads to" (Evening Star, 25 September 1893).
Biography of James Nairn: Overview." Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Web. 11 August 2022.
Created 11 August 2022
Last modified 9 September 2022