Audio description of Rita Angus’s ‘Landscape (Wanaka)’, 1939

Rita Angus, Landscape (Wanaka), 1939. Watercolour. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (1998-0028-10)


Landscape (Wanaka) is a watercolour on paper, painted in 1939. It’s part of Te Papa’s art collection. This work is 28cm wide by 23cm high.

The artist shows her accomplished control of the delicate medium of watercolour to create both clearly defined lines and forms with vivid colour, and softer shapes washed with gentler shades.

A field of low green plants, scattered with white flowers, fills the bottom half of the painting. From midway, there is pasture, then low hills, then a valley cuts through angled planes of mountainsides towards one distant central peak, beneath a pale sky.

The plants would be about ankle height should we wander through. Rita brings this foreground foliage to life with precise flicks of paint in vivid greens, leaving some of the unpainted white paper to shine through. The luminous field seems to be almost rippling in an unseen breeze.

Perhaps that’s what has darkened the waters of a small pond or large puddle in the front centre. Rita streaks black lines across the surface, as if it’s rippling or reflecting a chill sky. It feels like it would be cold if you walked through it.

A thin, light-brown line traverses the centre of the picture, as the ground starts to rise to a low green hillside. The artist marks straight, tiny, silhouetted battens of a fence line that march along the top of the hill. They’re not the only indications of people in this place – beyond the fence, there’s a stretch of ploughed land on the left, and low golden hillsides have swathes cut across them, as if crops are being harvested. On top of another hill to the right, there’s a stand of dark trees near two blocky farm buildings – tiny rectangular forms, straight-edged like the fence line.

Rita works with the flowing wateriness of watercolour, with soft-washed changes in colour and tone, to signal the distance and forms of the hills as they give way to the mountains across the top half of the painting. A low purple ridge reaches right across the frame behind the golden hills, with a few tiny trees along its heights.

Beyond this, the land divides into a valley, set between mountains that loom as high triangles on either side, soft in colour but firm in form against the sky. Away in the central distance, a rounded blue peak stands sentinel and alone.