Landscape Paintings of New Zealand: A Journey from North to South
A former director of the Auckland Art Gallery, Christopher Johnstone is now Fundraising Manager for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. He is the author of Landscape Paintings of New Zealand: A Journey from North to South (2006), an exploration of New Zealand through the eyes of our greatest landscape painters, and The Painted Garden in New Zealand Art (2008), the story of our gardening history as it intersected with our cultural and artistic development. The Painted Garden in New Zealand Art was a finalist in the Montana Book of the Year Award in 2008, and was also responsible for Johnstone's being awarded the 2009 Medal for Garden History by the Royal New Zealand Horticultural Institute. Born in Sydney, Johnstone grew up in England and Ireland. He studied art history in the United States, and graduated from Bennington College in 1971. He then began his art museum career as a curator at the Tate Gallery and, after holding senior positions at the National Galleries of Scotland, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia, he became director of the Auckland Art Gallery (1988u1995). He is also the author of a book on the 19th-century British painter John Martin and Fifty 20th-century Artists (1996). Landscape Paintings of New Zealand has been described by the Greymouth Star as a 'fascinating' book exploring '103 stunning paintings', concluding: 'This is New Zealand art history made accessible, yet still full of scholarship and insight.' Urbis Landscapes highlighted 'the informative text that shines new light on many familiar worksa giving us a tantalising introduction to the words and thoughts of many of the artists themselves, and tapping into the psychology behind an artist's response to the land a interweav[ing] history and new information'. It also praised the social history aspects, with Johnstone exploring the difficulties early artists experienced in actually accessing the landscape, and how the Depression and war years meant many artists continued to use watercolours when quality canvases and paper proved hard to obtain. In Art New Zealand William Dart praised 'Johnstone's elegantly penned [introductory] essay a there is extraordinary coverage within its 12 columns of prose'. The Press concurred: it mentions the 'thoughtful, scholarly introduction', alongside praising the 'crisply written biographies', 'discerning selection' and the 'refreshing survey of memorable encounters between artist and motif'. Its more populist appeal was focused on by gallery director Dr Fiona Ciaran in the Timaru Herald the book 'is a cracker' that 'has something for everyone' and she concluded that it is 'simply a magnificent landmark in publishing itself'. The reviewer for Homestyle wrote: 'While the works themselves are reason enough to pick up this book, what makes it even more appealing is that Johnstone has organized the paintings geographically a [and] also provides background details on the painters, their choice of scene and the techniques they used'. The result is 'magnificent' and 'outstanding'. The Northern Advocate lauded 'a visual feast', the 'simple stylish presentation' and provision of endmatter 'a winning way of presenting paintings for optimum viewing'. Art News, writing of Landscape Paintings of New Zealand, noted that Johnstone has captured the artistic practice described by Richard McWhannell as painting 'what you know of a landscape rather than what you see':'Johnstone's selection of works for this book certainly evinces that sense of knowing as well as a painterly perception of place'. The Taranaki Daily News praised its 'superb reproduction of each painting' and how the 'easy to read and informative introduction sheds light on the origins of landscape painting and its place in New Zealand art history'. NZ House and Garden said of The Painted Garden in New Zealand Art, 'his meticulous research has brought together much fascinating material that was buried away out of sight', then went on to praise Johnstone's 'erudite but accessible text, placing each one in its artistic context'. The Daily Read concluded: 'This brilliant book is great for anyone from serious art aficionados to garden lovers; it caters to those interested in our history and anyone that appreciates a beauty and fine aesthetics - simply put: it's a must for any respectable library or a beautiful book for your coffee table!'