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More than Fifty Shades of Grey: The Landscape Paintings of Helen Brown


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Article about the career of New Zealand landscape painter Helen Brown (1917-1986), published in Art New Zealand No. 164, Summer 2017-18, pp. 98-102.
The first paragraph of the article (p. 98) reads as follows:
"‘None of the greatest painters were eccentric in their work’, the (great) English landscape painter John Constable once proclaimed. ‘They were too consistent with themselves to merit such an epithet; too sensible of what they were about.’ Helen Brown (1917–1986) was an eccentric New Zealand painter. She painted landscapes, but did not follow the most progressive stylistic approaches of her era, and her focus was primarily on the unfashionable beauty (in terms of art, anyway) of Auckland’s harbours and the Hauraki Gulf. In keeping with her palette, he was a kind of ‘grey character’ of New Zealand art, neither overtly celebrated nor denigrated. In a 1967 review under the telling heading ‘Uncertain feeling apparent in Helen Brown’s paintings’, Gordon H. Brown suggested that she was of ‘historical interest’ in the context of post-World War II New Zealand painting, but added that this interest ‘has not carried over into the present’. Michael Dunn concludes that Brown ‘did not make any radical departures either stylistically or thematically.’ Yet it is precisely the fact that Brown was, in Constable’s terms, not consistent with herself that makes her an interesting painter. For much of her career she was caught between her enthusiasm for aspects of European modernism and the lure of certain kinds of subjects, notably tranquil, expansive, watery ones. If the results were not spectacular or ground-breaking (how many New Zealand artists of the period could claim to have achieved that?), there are nonetheless pictures that stand out as personal, satisfying and, sometimes, pleasantly odd."

Item Type: Journal article
Uncontrolled Keywords: New Zealand art, landscape painting, modernism
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Edward Hanfling
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2018 02:59
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 06:38

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