Highlights

Charles Tole (1903-1988) Quarry buildings 1968 oil on board, 302 x 384 mm Victoria University of Wellington Staff Club Collection

Charles Tole came to painting later than most, picking up the brush in his thirties. Largely self-taught, he was inspired by his elder brother, John Tole, who was active as a painter in the Auckland art community during the 1930s. It was through his brother that Charles met the artist John Weeks, an inspirational teacher at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland who had lived and painted in Europe where he acquired first-hand knowledge of cubism. Weeks imparted to Tole the principles of cubism in which colour and shapes are manipulated so that forms can be seen from multiple viewpoints without destroying a sense of the flat surface of the canvas. This is evident in Tole’s small but compelling painting, Quarry buildings. Although painted in 1968, well after cubism had been surpassed by other painterly modes, it still employs a cubist approach whereby the forms of the landscape are presented as coloured planes that interlock across the picture. Here colour is used to create spatial shifts and tonal variations to both denote the play of light and shade in a real landscape and to create a syncopated play of form that animates the composition. Quarry buildings was purchased by the Staff Club.  The Staff Club Collection was initiated at the first annual general meeting of the Staff Club in 1942. Two years later the Club’s minutes noted with some satisfaction that ‘we have not only provided several pictures to cover our bare walls but we seem to have provided an inexhaustible topic for conversation in all emergencies’. Six years later, a motion was carried to begin purchasing pictures and a modest levy on members was introduced. In 1971 the Staff Club’s Collection was placed on permanent loan in the University Art Collection. Now hanging in various public spaces around the university, it is a constant reminder of the generosity of the academic community.

 

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