Colin McCahon’s sombre, often difficult canvasses combine modernist influences drawn from European and American art with New Zealand landscape and religious subjects. McCahon’s early influences included Toss Woolaston and Robert Nettleton Field, who were amongst the first to import the proto-modernism of Cezanne to New Zealand. McCahon’s early figurative works deal chiefly with New Testament scenes, often placing Biblical figures in a New Zealand context. By the 1950s, McCahon had settled into the severe, almost reductive modernist mode which characterises his mature work. Following his visit to America in 1958, during which he saw first-hand the works of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning, McCahon moved on to large-scale expressionist canvasses, often including text. Unfortunately, over the course of the 1980s McCahon’s health deteriorated as a result of his lifelong battle with alcohol addiction, eventually preventing him from painting altogether. He died in Auckland in 1987, three years after an exhibition of his paintings titled I Will Need Words was shown at the Sydney Biennale, launching his reputation overseas.