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Petrus van der Velden Painting Purchased

Christchurch Art Gallery purchases major early painting by Petrus van der Velden

Visitors to Christchurch Art Gallery will soon have the chance to see one of Petrus van der Velden’s earliest works, The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam (1867). The work will be the first major piece from the Dutch artist’s career before he moved to New Zealand to be on show to the public anywhere in this country.

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The work meticulously depicts one of the Netherlands’ busiest ports in Rotterdam and was purchased by the Gallery earlier this year. It will be on display from 22 November as part of the refreshed Brought to Light, the long-term exhibition of the Gallery’s permanent collection.

The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam was completed in 1867 as van der Velden was giving up his lithographic printing business to become a full-time painter. Early in his career, he focused on marine subjects and this work was one of the first he exhibited.

Gallery director Jenny Harper says it will be fantastic for visitors to the Gallery to see the progression of van der Velden’s career in the refreshed Brought to Light. The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam will be one of three paintings by the artist on display.

The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam, with its marine focus, is a striking example of an early van der Velden. The Dutch Funeral, a real public favourite, was completed in 1875 and portrays the harsh conditions of the Dutch working class in the style of the nineteenth-century romantic realist work of the Hague School of painters. The third work, Mountain stream, Otira Gorge, was completed in 1893 after van der Velden emigrated to New Zealand and is painted in the romantic landscape style of the late nineteenth century. It is one of a series of paintings based on the Otira Gorge region, for which he is well known in this country, and which will become the focus of a major exhibition opening at the Gallery in February 2011.

Ms Harper says, “The Gallery already owned smaller early works by van der Velden, but being offered this painting gave us the chance to acquire a much larger-scale work from this period. It is more aligned in size with two other major works of his already in the collection and it will be wonderful to be able to show our visitors such a key early work by the artist. The Leuvehaven, Rotterdam will allow us to show his wide-ranging output and to emphasise both where he came from and the extraordinary impact that the New Zealand landscape had on his practice.”

The new painting was purchased with assistance from Gabrielle Tasman in memory of her late husband Adriaan, and the Olive Stirrat Bequest. The purchase was also supported by Christchurch City Council’s Challenge Grant to the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust. The grant, launched last year, sees the Council match funds raised by the Trust up to a set amount annually for ten years to assist the Gallery to purchase significant works of art.

The Gallery is organising a major exhibition of van der Velden’s Otira series, Van der Velden: Otira, from 11 February to 15 May next year.

Brought to Light is a continuing exhibition of the Gallery’s collection and was opened in late November 2009. The first major refreshment occurs this month and will be at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu from 22 November 2010 until 26 November 2011.


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