Figures from Life

Toss Woollaston1936

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Figures from Life is a double portrait of Edith Alexander, whom Toss Woollaston was to marry two months after completing this work, and another close friend, fellow artist Rodney Kennedy. The use of grey toned paper, broad charcoal outlines and floating patches of oil colour make it one of the first modernist New Zealand portraits.

As well as characterising the two sitters, the artist captures their body language. People who knew Kennedy were aware he could gaze with an intensity that felt like a stare. Edith was a frequent model whom Woollaston showed to be both self-content and self-aware. Another portrait by Woollaston, of Janet Furze, occupies the rear wall.

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  • Title: Figures from Life
  • Creator: M T ('Toss') Woollaston
  • Date Created: 1936
  • Physical Dimensions: w478 x h627 mm (Without frame)
  • Artist biography: Sir Mountford Tosswill (Toss) Woollaston was born in Toko, Taranaki in 1910. He studied at Canterbury School of Art. His career as a painter spanned almost 60 years and he is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most important artists. In 1979, he was knighted – the first New Zealand painter to receive the honour. Woolaston died in 1998.
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr Colin McCahon, 1954, http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/terms-of-use
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: oil and charcoal

Additional Items

Figures from Life (Supplemental)