Today we think of Wellington as New Zealand’s creative and cultural capital, but the Friends’ visit to the wonderfully rich exhibition Pumpkin Cottage: Salon at Expressions Whirinaki in Upper Hutt revealed the vibrancy of Wellington’s art scene a century ago. Alongside the more traditional art practice of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, members of the Wellington Art Club were quick to respond to the influence of Art Noveau and Impressionism. Te Papa Art Curator Rebecca Rice highlighted the exquisite works of artists such as James Nairn, Nugent H. Welch, Sydney Higgs and Dorothy Kate Richmond and others involved with the Pumpkin Cottage group, who ventured around Wellington and beyond to depict the landscape in plein air. We could have spent all day listening to Rebecca, but the gallery’s famous scones were calling.

After the coffee break we explored the fascinating exhibition, the Secrets of Mona Lisa. Te Papa Art Curator Mark Stocker highlighted some of the amazing secrets revealed through the work of French scientific engineer Pascal Cotte who was given special access by the French Government and the Louvre Museum to make a multi-spectral analysis of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. Cotte’s detailed computer analysis discovered 25 hidden secrets, including the discovery that Mona Lisa is actually four overlaid paintings. His work has also enabled us to see the painting in its original colours, the fresh greens of the trees and pure lapis lazuli blue of the sky.

Our thanks to Expressions Director Leanne and staff for a most enjoyable morning and we look forward to returning on Classic Coaches little bus ‘Rosa’ in the future.

Pumpkin Cottage: Salon closes on 8 April and Secrets of Mona Lisa on 15 April, so make sure you visit Expressions Whirinaki soon and find out how Pumpkin Cottage got its name.

Elizabeth Kay, President