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Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters

The revealing letters of a great New Zealand landscape artist – riveting to read and generously illustrated.

Editor: Jill Trevelyan
Publication date: 2004

Currently out of print.

Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters

Toss Woollaston was for many years the pre-eminent 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, God, the landscape, poetry, and his friends. But above all, he wrote about art – his own and that of others. His letters are an archive of national importance, spanning his entire lifetime. 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 an appealing individual, constantly beset by financial insecurity and other obstacles to painting, but possessed of unshakeable self-belief and determination. Candid, opinionated, irreverent, and sometimes caustic, Toss is good company – always engaging, and with a keen eye for social mores, whether at a country fair in Greymouth or an art opening in New York.

Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters illuminates Woollaston’s painting and his relationships with family, friends, and the art community of his time. It 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, this book features a substantial introduction and bridging text from editor and curator Jill Trevelyan. Altogether, it is a compelling biographical portrait and an important record of a key period in New Zealand’s cultural and social history.

This title is now out of print.

NZ RRP (incl. GST): $59.99
Extent: 520 pp
Illustrations: More than 60 full colour and black-and-white
Format: 230 mm x 176 mm
Binding: HB
ISBN: 978-0-909010-07-2

Currently out of print.