The Pumpkin Cottage collection is a nationally significant collection of work from the early impressionist movement which was nurtured at the legendary Pumpkin Cottage, Silverstream, Upper Hutt. It features paintings by James Nairn, Mabel Hill, Girolamo Nerli, Frances Hodgkins and Nugent Welch among others.
Local art collectors Ernest and his wife Shirley gifted 39 Pumpkin Cottage paintings to Expressions Whirinaki Trust for the people of Upper Hutt in 2009 and the works have been in the Centre's safe keeping ever since. These significant Pumpkin Cottage paintings are the City's first permanent art collection which continues to grow thanks to several generous gifts.
In 1895, Wellington artist and art teacher, James Nairn, rented Pumpkin Cottage, a rustic dwelling on a Silverstream farm, which soon became a retreat for the modern artists of the day. These artists were exploring Impressionism, the significant art movement, which began in Paris in the 1870s and had spread to Britain, Europe, and Australia by the 1880s. These arts enjoyed a bohemian lifestyle at Pumpkin Cottage - where they explored this exciting 'new' art form. Some of the Pumpkin Cottage artists were James Nairn, Mabel Hill, John Baillie, H.M. Gore, Maurice Crompton-Smith and Mary Tripe (nee Richardson). Impressionists from Christchurch and Dunedin including Alfred Walsh, W.M. Gibb, John Madden, Frances Hodgkins and Girolamo Nerli were also part of the movement.
Significant Art Movement
In the late 18th Century, New Zealand art students were taught to paint by a set of rules.
The Pumpkin Cottage Impressionists scorned the grand imagery and techniques of the academics, believing the style was clichéd and inauthentic.
Although they were diverse in style and temperament, the Impressionists all valued the originality and freshness achieved from painting quickly and directly from the subject. An indigenous New Zealand style of Impressionism, saturated with colour, was born.
The radicalism of their art united the Impressionists as they sought camaraderie and mutual support. Pumpkin Cottage was a meeting place for the artists and their movement. While Nairn died in 1904, aged just 45, a subsequent sell-out memorial exhibition of his work at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts helped build the mystique of Pumpkin Cottage. Pumpkin Cottage Impressionism was nationally popular for almost half a century after Nairn's death.
If you are interested in gifting or donating a Pumpkin Cottage era artwork to the collection, please get in touch with Curator Chriss Doherty-McGregor.
B. E. Chapple
UHPC 1/1, Oil, 255mm (h) x 339mm (w)
B.E. (Bessie) Chapple (1883 - 1965) trained under James Nairn and M.E.R. Tripe from about 1897 until 1901 at Wellington Technical School. She had a long association with Pumpkin Cottage and the various incarnations of the Wellington Art Club from 1907. She painted this between about 1920, when St Patrick's College added the lean-to at the rear to the original cottage, and 1946 when the old wooden brudge on Hutt Main Road (now Fergusson Drive) was replaced by a concrete culvert. In this painting, Bessie focuses on the expanse of Whirinaki Creek at the Pumpkin Cottage ford. From a low viewpoint, she rendered the water in pure blue dabs of paint which contrast vividly with the green weeds and grasses. Such a painterly Impressionist composition with its shapely cropped angle of the bridge would have made her former art teacher, James Nairn, proud.
UHPC 1/2, Water colour, 458mm (h) x 485mm (w)
UHPC 1/3, Oil, 320mm (h) x 455mm (w)
William (Bill) Tiller (1861-1935) first exhibited as a young Wellington Technical School student with the Wellington Art Club in 1896. He was associated with Pumpkin Cottage for over 40 years. He was probably staying at the cottage when he captured this beautiful impression of fading light at the end of the day. The characteristic Silverstream hills are recognisable, but topography is less important to the Impressionist painter than the opportunity to rapidly paint the colours cast by the light and shadow.
Arthur A. Bender
UHPC 1/4, Oil, 370mm (h) x 493mm (w)
UHPC 1/5, Water colour, 448mm (h) x 558mm (w)
In the summer of 1910, a new literary, artistic and musical group, Wellington Arts Club, rented a cottage at Golden Gate, Paremata Harbour for 5 shillings per annum for the use of its members. The bach was owned by prominent local farmer William Bradey and had been used by James Nairn and members of the original Wellington Art Club about seven years earlier. In this fluid watercolour of the harbour, Sedgwick (1873 - 1922) rendered the clouds and windswept trees as curved decorative forms. Other Pumpkin Cottage Impressionists including D.K. Richmond, Nugent Welch, and young Roland Wakelin were also influenced by Art Nouveau from about 1906. By 1913, the Wellington Arts Club was in liquidation and forced to vacate its Bowen Street rooms and auction 300 books on art and paintings. Bradey's cottage was also required by its owner and the artists returned to Silverstream.
S. W. Wauchop
UHPC 1/6, Water colour, 506mm (h) x 649mm (w)
Bill Wauchop held powerful roles as president of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and board member of the National Art Gallery. He was also associated with establishing the Kelliher Art Award in the 1950s. While he collected drawings by Christopher Perkins, he publicly denounced Modernist developments as 'crude and ugly'. Wauchop preferred traditional, 'inspiring' romantic imagery. The scenic landscape of the Taramakau Valley between Hokitika and Greymouth remained one of his favourite painting spots.
Dorothy Kate Richmond
UHPC 1/7, Water colour, 508mm (h) x 595mm (w)
Dorothy Kate (Dolla) Richmond (1861 - 1935) returned to Wellington from an extended painting trip overseas in late 1903. She succeeded Nairn as Wellington's major Impressionist painter with overseas experience. She painted regularly around Silverstream and Heretaunga, but her family connections with York Bay were strong. In 1911 she bought a house there where she lived surrounded by paintings, books and her tame seagull. Richmond's Impressionist image of York Bay embraced a new technique of rendering the landscape as curved shapes, which was influenced by the organic forms of the Art Nouveau style.
STILL LIFE WITH ROSES
Dorothy Kate Richmond
UHPC 1/8, Water colour, 715mm (h) x 770mm (w)
In between painting excursions to Taranaki, Marlborough and Mt. Cook, Dolla Richmond developed her magnificent flower paintings, which she usually painted at her Hill Street studio in Wellington or her home at York Bay. The bright yellow jar with a snake handles may have been part of her Italian majolica pottery tea set. Renowned for her handling of watercolour, Richmond's Impressionistic techniques include leaving areas of bright white paper exposed as highlights and the wet-on-wet method of layering colour to achieve deep saturated yellows and reds.
W. S. Wauchop
UHPC 1/9, Water colour, 445mm (h) x 520mm (w)
RIVER AND HILLS, KAITOKE
Jean M. McKay
UHPC 1/10, Water colour, 455mm (h) x 545mm (w)
RUINS, PALATINE HILL, ROME
Edward Noel Barraud
UHPC 1/11, Water colour, 598mm (h) x 445mm (w)
Henry Moreland Gore
UHPC 1/12, Oil, 445mm (h) x 545mm (w)
Harry Gore (1864 - 1930) was an original member of Nairn's group and long regarded as inseparable from the landscape of Silverstream. However, towards the end of his life he found new subject matter at Titahi Bay, a popular holiday spot an hour from Wellington. This view is from Bay Drive as it winds towards the Club Hotel run by the formidable Mrs Elizabeth Thornley. On the left is Cable Hut built in 1917 for the Wellington end of the telegraph cable between the South and North Islands. A contemporary review admired the painting's pastel shades of blue and gold, a popular choice of colours in the 1920s. These pale and muted colours perfectly reflect the languid feeling of long summer days at the beach.
Henry Moreland Gore
UHPC 1/13, Oil, 465mm (h) x 567mm (w)
Gore captured a transitory impressionist moment in this rapidly painted scene of the Hutt River. Branches are decoratively silhouetted against the sky, while brightly coloured trees are reflected in the water. Harry Gore (1864 - 1930) was represented at New Zealand's first major impressionist exhibition - the second Wellington Art Club annual exhibition in 1894. From 1895 until his death, his steady influence as an official of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington helped the impressionist cause.
LIMESTONE FORMATION, BAY OF ISLANDS, NORTHLAND
Carl T. Laugeson
UHPC 1/14, Water colour, 395mm (h) x 495mm (w)
Arthur A. Bender
UHPC 1/15, Oil, 332mm (h) x 410mm (w)
SOLDIER'S POOL, HUTT RIVER
George H. Garnham
UHPC 1/16, Water colour, 557mm (h) x 755mm (w)
UHPC 1/17, Acrylic, 630mm (h) x 785mm (w)
Pumpkin Cottage ceased being an artists' retreat in 1949, when it accommodated families working for St Patrick's College. By 1975 it was dilapidated. Darcy Nicholas, of Kahui Maunga, Te Atiawa, Ngati Ruanui, Ngati Haua and Tauranga Moana tribes, was having a drink with his father-in-law at the RSA in Upper Hutt in 1975, when talk turned to the threatened demolition of the cottage. On his way home to Taita he stopped at the empty cottage and began this painting.
Nicholas depicted the artistic icon at the height of the campaign to save it. Its chimney may have crumbled but, bathed in light, its proud history and spirit remained.
WELLINGTON HARBOUR FROM BOTANICAL GARDENS
UHPC 1/18, Water colour, 892mm (h) x 730mm (w)
Fresh and unusual viewpoints resulted from painting on the spot. Fred Sedgwick used a characteristic impressionist technique of cropping this picture arbitrarily on each side. Sedgwick (1873 - 1922) was a Pumpkin Cottage stalwart from 1893 and was the leading figure behind the revival of Silverstream as an artists' retreat immediately after Nairn's death in 1904.
THROUGH THE FOREST, AKATARAWA
UHPC 1/19, Water colour, 745mm (h) x 960mm (w)
Mabel Hill (1872 - 1956) was part of a group of Wellington painters who travelled to Sydney in 1897. It is likely that the leading impressionist, Tom Roberts, encouraged her paintings of characteristic New Zealand landscape defined by sunlight. Hill was an art teacher at Wellington Technical School until her marriage in 1898. Like the feminist artist, Marie Bashkirtseff, she was a precocious and talented painter who met with early success. Her stated fear that she would be 'lionized' on a visit to Dunedin in 1895 prompted Frances Hodgkins to 'not trouble her', although Hodgkins later came to respect Hill.
PUMPKIN COTTAGE, 1930
UHPC 1/20, Reproduction, 429mm (h) x 534mm (w)
UHPC 1/21, Oil, 495mm (h) x 605mm (w)
Impressionist painters were fascinated by the colours and movement of water. In common with French impressionist, Claude Monet, Tiller may have painted this view (of the Hutt River) while seated in a boat. Tiller remained associated with Pumpkin Cottage for more than 40 years.
UHPC 1/22, Oil, 505mm (h) x 620mm (w)
William Tiller was a draper's assistant at Wellington's Kirkcaldie and Stains department store. He was a neighbour of Nugent Welch in Wright Street, and in 1920 joined the independent Society of Seven artists and exhibited in their last two exhibitions. The eye moves from the painterly clump of grasses in the foreground across the deep expanse of beautifully coloured stones and water to the outline of hills against bright blue sky.
SPRING SHOWER, HUTT RIVER
UHPC 1/23, Water colour, 585mm (h) x 715mm (w)
First World War veteran Sydney Higgs (1884 - 1978) helped scrub out Pumpkin Cottage after a big flood in 1930 and was a leading force in securing it exclusively for use by the Wellington Sketch & Studio Club in 1942. Higgs painted this elegant and optimistic image near the end of the Second World War. The modern reinforced concrete bridge at Silverstream was opened in 1939. Seen through a blossoming cherry tree, the painting can be interpreted as a celebration of progress and renewal. It is in marked contrast to the relentlessly grim war news then reaching New Zealand from overseas.
PUMPKIN COTTAGE SILVERSTREAM
T. A. McCormack
UHPC 1/24, Dry Point Etching, 391mm (h) x 424mm (w)
T. A. (Thomas) McCormack (1883 - 1973) arrived in Wellington from Napier in 1921 and soon found company among the artists at Pumpkin Cottage. The figure seated on the veranda is the lanky Nugent (Nuggy) Welch (1.83 metres tall). The old rose beside the painted pumpkin was planted sometime after 1914 by artist Flora Scales. McCormack more than likely printed this etching using a printing press gifted to the Wellington Art Club by the Dominion Museum. Museum staffer and Society of Seven members, James McDonald, also a keen printmaker, arranged the gift in about 1920.
AKATARAWA RIVER (UPPER WAIKANAE)
Henry Moreland Gore
UHPC 1/25, Oil, 428mm (h) x 510mm(w)
Light is the subject of this painting done in a decorative ensemble of blues, greys and ochre, with the figure of the fisherman seeming to dissolve into the river. Indeed, Gore was busy in 1896. Not only did he represent New Zealand in tennis, but he also worked fulltime as a Parliamentary Hansard staff member.
Archibald Frank Nicoll
UHPC 1/26, Oil, 330mm (h) x 430mm(w)
In the immediate post-war period, serious artists in England and Canada created opportunities to promote and sell their art by banding together in small groups. In March 1918 Christchurch-born Archibald (Archie) Nicoll (1886 - 1953) lost a leg and was discharged from the Army. While working at the Wellington Technical School, he helped set up the Society of Seven, which included fellow returned soldier Nugent Welch, and Pumpkin Cottage stalwarts Fred Sedgwick, A.A. Bender, William Tiller, James McDonald, Edwin Murray Fuller and E.G. Hood. Between 1919 and 1921 the Society of Seven held three exhibitions of their work, with Silverstream a popular subject.
PORT OF WANGANUI 1913
Henry Moreland Gore
UHPC 1/27, Oil, 395mm (h) x 495mm(w)
WHITEMANS VALLEY ROAD
UHPC 1/28, Water colour, 344mm (h) x 393mm(w)
This delicate painting indicates that Christchurch artist and William Ernest Chapman painted in the Silverstream area. Whitemans Valley is situated near Pumpkin Cottage, although it was reached via Wallaceville. Chapman (d.1945) was a member of Christchurch's Palette Club. In 1891 he resigned from teaching at the Canterbury School of Art to travel and successfully exhibited in Paris and New York. It is unclear whether he painted this prior to going overseas.
UHPC 1/29, Water colour, 417mm (h) x 508mm(w)
Four artists including Sydney Higgs celebrated VE Day (Victory over Europe) at Pumpkin Cottage on 9th May 1945, New Zealand's official celebration marking the end of the Second World War. Higgs may have painted this water colour during that visit although the bleached grass suggests a dry summer's day in Upper Hutt, while the clouds convincingly scud overhead in the expansive sky which takes up more than half the picture. As soldiers returned home, married and began to raise families, there was a shortage of accommodation. In August 1947 St Patrick's College revoked Wellington Sketch & Studio Club's exclusive lease of the cottage in order to house its staff. It appears this was the last time the cottage was available for the use of artists.
Mary E. R. Tripe
UHPC 1/30, Oil, 215mm (h) x 290mm(w)
Mary (Molly) Tripe, nee Richardson (1870 - 1939) painted at Silverstream and Trentham for many years. But she had largely abandoned the area by the 1920s in favour of portraiture and extended trips overseas painting and exhibiting in England, France and Canada. The title of this sketchy image in Wellington Harbour near Red Rocks suggests it was exhibited overseas. It echoes Tripe's favourite themes of leisure and well-being, with slicks of red paint suggesting a turban worn by the fashionable woman in trousers. On returning from an overseas trip in 1928, Tripe was sufficiently alarmed at the state of Pumpkin Cottage to write about it and her memories of James Nairn, her former colleague at Wellington Technical School, in the new journal Art in New Zealand.
HUTT RIVER, SILVERSTREAM
UHPC 1/31, Oil, 542mm (h) x 642mm (w)
HUTT RIVER, SILVERSTREAM 1941
UHPC 1/32, Water colour, 410mm (h) x 460mm (w)
THOMAS COTTER HOMESTEAD 1868
UHPC 1/33, Reproduction, 415mm (h) x 538mm (w)
James McLauchlan Nairn
UHPC 1/34, Water colour, 690mm (h) x 790mm (w)
James (Jimmy) McLauchlan Nairn (1859 - 1904) often painted around Wellington Harbour. The fisherman calmly goes about his business near Roseneath, while the port bustles with shipping. A loaded vessel steams past other anchored ships waiting to dock, while two little sailing boats bob on the choppy sea. Nairn has captured Impressionist moments in characteristic blobs of pure colour for the viewer to mix visually.
In the winter of 1898 Nairn got soaked while painting out of doors and caught pneumonia, resulting in a long convalescence. Perhaps this painting was the cause of his near-death experience.
PORTRAIT OF MRS RAE JONES
James McLauchlan Nairn
UHPC 1/35, Water colour, 650mm (h) x 575mm (w)
The face of 18-year-old Jane Rae Jones, a student at Wellington Technical School, was indeed masterfully painted in startling yet convincing shades of green. But Nairn's biased self-review of his own work at the 1895 New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts' exhibition was at the expense of his Christchurch allies. This was too much for a furious Gibb who revealed in Christchurch's Press that the critic was none other than Nairn. The exchange undermined Nairn and had a detrimental impact on the unity of the Impressionist movement.
Christchurch and Nelson Impressionists failed to exhibit at the third and final Wellington Art Club exhibition organised by Nairn in 1896 and New Zealand's impressionist movement lost its momentum.
PUMPKIN COTTAGE 1934
UHPC 1/36, Reproduction, 410mm (h) x 480mm (w)
Nugent H. Welch
UHPC 1/37, Water colour, 400mm (h) x 490mm (w)
Cottage stalwart, Nugent Welch, also spent much time painting at coastal spots around Wellington, Kapiti and the Wairarapa. Castlepoint was not commonly frequented by artists but Welch enjoyed expeditions to remote locations on the New Zealand coast searching out fresh painting spots. During the 1930s Welch moved away from Impressionism and began using modern blocks of pure colour to indicate forms such as the grass and sand dunes in this painting. The expansive sky dominating half the picture space is a characteristic Welch composition. His high viewpoint from a hill looks over the broad sweep of the landscape below and leads the eye towards the smooth blue horizon.
PUMPKIN COTTAGE, REAR VIEW
Nugent H. Welch
UHPC 1/38, Water colour, 525mm (h) x 420mm (w)
Nugent Welch (1881 - 1970), served overseas and was appointed official New Zealand war artist in 1918. Charged with recording post-war horrors and destruction in allied France, he returned as a hero to Wellington in 1919 and resumed painting in the idyllic surroundings of Silverstream. Welch was immortalised as the bohemian artist at Pumpkin Cottage in Nelle Scanlan's best-selling 1934 romantic novel Winds of Heaven set in Upper Hutt. The bright colours and loosely worked, painterly technique suggest this watercolour dates to the mid-1930s. Further research may reveal whether or not this is a rear view of the famous cottage. The large tree that asymmetrically intersects the space illustrates a characteristic Impressionist technique of selecting an unusual and seemingly arbitrary view.
Nugent H. Welch
UHPC 1/39, Water colour, 494mm (h) x 599mm (w)
The Cosgroves' collection was appropriately the Expressions Art and Entertainment Centre's first exhibition when it opened in 2003. Their subsequent gift of 39 Pumpkin Cottage paintings in 2009 to be held forever on behalf of the people of Upper Hutt formed the basis of the gallery's permanent collection. This is Ernest Cosgrove's favourite painting. It sums up his passion for the New Zealand Impressionists' skill in depicting the colours of local skies. Nugent Welch captured the characteristically expansive Wairarapa landscape on a hazy day - imagine how rapidly he would have needed to paint to catch the moment before the central cloud floated away.
PUMPKIN COTTAGE 1930
UHPC 1/40, Reproduction, 430mm (h) x 534mm (w)
PUMPKIN COTTAGE MODEL
UHPC 1/41, Card and balsa wood, 140mm (h) x 160mm (w) x 240mm (l)
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