Story: Painting

Colin McCahon, 'The angel of the annunciation' (1st of 4)

Colin McCahon, 'The angel of the annunciation'

In this 1947 oil painting Colin McCahon sets the biblical story of the annunciation – the moment when the angel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus – not in Nazareth but in Nelson. The angel floats in the foreground while the Nelson golf club and the distinctive tawny hills provide the background. From early in his career McCahon had imbued the New Zealand hills with religious feelings and he found inspiration in the religious works of early Italian renaissance painters who had located biblical events in an Italian setting. The black writing of the painting's title on the bottom left anticipates McCahon's use of words in his later paintings.

Using this item

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Reference: 1980-0008-3
Oil on cardboard by Colin McCahon, 1947

Permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

Courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Painting - Nationalism and landscape painting, 1935 to 1965', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 November 2019)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 22 Oct 2014