A world away: European art 1850-1950
In the second half of the nineteenth century, artists in Europe began casting aside realism in painting. They no longer saw value in maintaining tradition, but instead sought successively new ways of making art. They were moving towards the ‘modernist’ position suggested by Maurice Denis in his dictum of 1890: ‘… a picture - before being a war-horse, a nude woman, or some sort of anecdote - is essentially a surface covered with colours arranged in a certain order.’
British artists travelled to the Continent to study new modernist art movements like impressionism, fauvism, post-impressionism, cubism, and surrealism, and made their own contributions to their development.
Nearly all of New Zealand’s more ambitious and talented artists between 1900 and 1930 also travelled to Europe to study progress at first hand. Some returned to New Zealand, but many, like Frances Hodgkins, did not, feeling the artistic environment here was too conservative and unsupportive. In either case, their work was often still seen in New Zealand and, though not always understood, helped inform those at home about new approaches to art being made in Europe.