Toss Woollaston


Toss Woollaston (Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston) is a key figure in New Zealand’s history of 20th century art and has been lauded as the Cezanne of the Pacific. Before discovering painting, Woollaston’s early ambition was to write poetry. Beginning in 1928 he laboured as a horticultural worker in Nelson, prior to moving to Christchurch to study briefly at Canterbury College School of Art, and then to Dunedin School of Art in Otago, before eventually settling in Mapua. Woollaston was actively involved in critical and intellectual debates, notably in his exchange regarding the artist’s role in the context of fascism, with writer Winston Rhodes in the journal Tomorrow, established in 1934 to encourage and cultural debate and dialogue. While most recognised for his landscape paintings, Woollaston was also equally inspired by the human form and created many portraits, treating each subject with the same intensity in an attempt to capture a sense of truth and an immediacy of experience.