Six days in Nelson and Canterbury; Colin McCahon; 1950; 1978/12


Six days in Nelson and Canterbury

About this object

'This painting I never explain but am often asked to. To me it explains itself. It was, I suppose, reconciling gains and losses, stating differences, hills and horizons. Simple. A bit of blood shed in the middle'. Colin McCahon is an outstanding figure in New Zealand art of the twentieth century. He was a great painter and a profound thinker as well as a teacher, critic and curator for ten years at this Gallery. In the 1940s the hills of Nelson and Canterbury were a familiar environment for McCahon, travelling to and from fruit-picking work. The fragmentary landscapes suggest glimpses flashing past the window of a bus or train, essentially similar, yet with varying moods. In response to a comment that New Zealand's hills were monotonous, McCahon replied, 'Monotonous yes, but with a cumulative grandeur, like Bach'. The 'six days' in the title echoes the Old Testament six days of creation, before the arrival of humanity. McCahon extracts an austere beauty from these low hills, and at the centre of the painting he places water and the 'bit of blood' spilt - symbols of grace and redemption. A beautiful, contemplative work, and one of the outstanding achievements of his early career, this is an example of McCahon's intense exploration of landscape as metaphor for the human condition, for the journey of life. (from The Guide, 2001)


Colin McCahon

Maker Role


Date Made


Medium and Materials

oil on canvas


885 x 1165mm

Subject and Association Description

blood, journeys, hills, Christianity, symbolism

Credit Line

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, gift of Colin McCahon through the Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery, 1978

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

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