Colin McCahon – cornerstone of our Art Collection

Colin McCahon, The Titirangi House from the Garden, 1953. University of Auckland Art Collection

Colin McCahon, The Titirangi House from the Garden, 1953.
University of Auckland Art Collection

This charcoal drawing by Colin McCahon was one of the first works acquired by the University of Auckland in 1966 for what is now a significant collection of more than 1500 artworks.

The Titirangi House from the Garden (1953) shows McCahon’s Titirangi residence abstracted into angled lines and simplified forms, demonstrating a Cubist influence which characterised his works from the 1950s.

This early purchase signifies the beginnings of the University’s 53 years of patronage of the arts through the acquisition of works in a wide range of media by local artists for the Art Collection.

At the time the work was purchased, McCahon was teaching in the painting department at Elam, the University’s School of Fine Arts. During his six-year tenure, McCahon influenced many artists and became increasingly successful himself, exhibiting and gaining recognition both nationally and internationally. He finished at Elam in 1971 to pursue painting full-time.1

Many of the artworks subsequently acquired for the University’s Art Collection are also by Elam staff and graduates. This tradition and commitment to supporting the development of the visual arts within the University and in Aotearoa has resulted in a collection that is unique in its reflection of our place and our history.

In a similar but more personal way, McCahon’s oeuvre also operates as a distinctive record of our geographical and art historical landscape. As we celebrate a centenary of McCahon (1919-1987) and look back at the history and development of our Art Collection, it seems fitting that McCahon’s works were the cornerstone.

Lara Thomas, University of Auckland Art Collection Assistant


1 Colin McCahon Trust. About McCahon. Retrieved from

Image on website homepage:
Colin McCahon, Landscape through a Victorian Window, 1959.


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