Author(s): Jill Trevalyn
The revealing letters of the great NZ artist; riveting to read & amply illustrated.
Toss Woollaston was, for many years, the preminent 20th century New Zealand modernist, whose great landscape paintings changed the way New Zealanders saw their country and themselves. He was also a passionate diarist and correspondent who wrote engagingly about everything: life, love, sex, God, the landscape, poetry and his many friends - but above all, about art. His letters span his entire lifetime, from adolescence to death, and many hundreds of them are included in this volume.
Woollaston's letters provide a vivid, intimate perspective on his life. Here, in place of the famous artist is the human being. An appealing and engaging individual, Toss was constantly beset by financial insecurity and other obstacles to painting but possessed unshakeable self-belief and determination. Candid, opiniated, irreverent and sometimes caustic, he is always engaging as a writer with a keen eye for social mores - whether at a country fair in Greymouth or at an art opening in New York.
This collection represents an archive of major national importance. It illuminates Woollastons painting and his relationships with family, friends and the art community of his time, and includes letters to contemporaries Ursula Bethell, Charles Brasch, Tony Fomison and Colin McCahon among others.
Beautifully illustrated with reproductions of paintings, sketches, archival photographs and samples of the letters themselves, and featuring a substantial introduction and bridging text from editor and curator Jill Trevelyan, this is a compelling biographical portrait and an important record of a key period in New Zealands cultural and social history.
Shortlisted for Montana New Zealand Book Awards: Biography Category 2005.
Jill Trevelyan is a Wellington art historian and curator who has worked at the Museum of New Zealand and the National Library Gallery. She has written about a number of New Zealand artists and writers including Frances Hodgkins, William Fox and Ursula Bethell, and is the co-author of Rita Angus: Live to Paint and Paint to Live (2001). Jill first became interested in Toss Woollaston's letters when she was part of the curatorial team for the 1991 Woollaston exhibition at the National Art Gallery.