View from Takaka Hill

Sir Mountford Tosswill (Toss) Woollaston 
New Zealand, 1910–1998
View from Takaka Hill 1976–78
oil on board, 1210 x 1510 mm

Collection of The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū: purchased by the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board through the Dorothy Annie Artmore Bequest, with the assistance of the Queen Elizabeth II Art Council of New Zealand in 1978. ACC: 443

Sometimes an artwork affects how you look at a landscape. Once you have seen this painting, it might forever change the way you regard the view from the top of Tākaka Hill looking towards Motueka.

Because the hill is so steep, the field of vision is almost entirely taken up with the ordered crops of Riwaka and Motueka, the blue expanse of Tasman Bay fringed with its muddy estuarine inlets and the Richmond Ranges in the distance. The colours in this painting are Woollaston’s signature palette of tonally balanced ‘Mapua mud’ browns, ochres and purply blues.

Toss Woollaston was one of the pioneers of modern art in New Zealand. He was influenced by his teacher in Dunedin, Robert N. Field, by Paul Cézanne and the Fauves (a group of early twentieth-century artists), and by Flora Scales. 

ArtWalk features three works by Toss Woollaston – From Spooners Range, Kiln Near Riwaka, and View from Takaka Hill.

Tākaka Hill

Tākaka Hill is the main divide between Nelson and Golden Bay. Comprised of Ordovician marble, the range has weathered into strange forms with numerous sinkholes. At one time, Māori believed the taipō (devil) lived in the Canaan area on top of the hill, most likely due to the deep rumblings of the underground streams, running through the vast network of caves.

The one road over the Hill is notorious for its steep twists and turns, and since Cyclone Gita in 2018, still has sections that are one-way. The reward for navigating the winding road are the awe-inspiring views on both sides,

The ‘Marble Mountain’ once had a marble quarry at its summit, near the Ngārua Caves. The Caves are popular with school groups and tourists alike, for their spectacular formations as well as the Moa bones. Gerard Hindmarsh wrote a fascinating article about the Caves’ 145 years of visitors – read it here.

Tākaka Hill is also home to Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve, home to various festivals, as well as the Canaan Loop Track, popular with trail runners and mountain bikers. There’s also Harwood’s Hole, which, at 183m, is the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand.

And, of course, given the rugged and stunning terrain, it is no surprise that Tākaka Hill was one of the film locations for The Lord of the Rings.

Toss Woollaston

There’s a wonderful anecdote here, of Woollaston speaking at an 1985 opening event of an exhibition of his work.

Installation Details

23 Wakatu Lane
(behind the Suburban Bus Station)


Many thanks to the property owner and tenant for being part of ArtWalk.

Nelson City Centre ArtWalk is a joint project by Make/Shift Spaces and The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū.