Taihape is a town in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand on State Highway 1, the main route north to south between Auckland and Wellington. It is also Douglas MacDiarmid’s hometown, the town he was born.
This artwork was painted from sketches made during his 1990 trip to New Zealand for the sesquicentennial celebrations. This painting shows the view of Tui Street looking down from the Taihape railway station, with the old Majestic Theatre on the left and the brewery at the bottom of the street, on the right.
The scene is a very personal one for the artist; it was his first visit there in 40 years and has a sense of arrival. In his travel notes at the time, he said:
“I don’t know what I expected coming here – walked around for two hours utterly fascinated.
“First blast of memory from Cartiers Hill at the end of the street, being the hill dominating the view from the window of the room in which I was born; it must be the first hill I ever came to visual terms with and, indeed, the subject of my first minute oil painting.”
MacDiarmid was born in an upstairs bedroom on the Kokako Street side of his family home at 24 Huia Street at Taihape. At the time, the home also housed his father’s doctor’s surgery and was surrounded by a bountiful garden and tennis court. Nowadays, it is a delightful bed and breakfast called Magpie Manor.
This painting of Taihape featured on the cover of Dr Nelly Finet’s art history book MacDiarmid, published in 2002 to commemorate Douglas’ 80th birthday. Limited copies in French or English are available from MacDiarmid Arts Trust.
A painting of the view from MacDiarmid’s childhood bedroom window also features in his biography Colours of a Life – the life and times of Douglas MacDiarmid by Anna Cahill (2018). The book is available to purchase here or ask for it at all good bookstores throughout New Zealand.