Author(s): Nathalie Brown
Seeing something in Nature that intensifies my joy in being alive, I want to try to reproduce it in such a form that when I see it again I re-live my joy at that divine moment. By so painting I hope to share my own delight with other people. – Austen Deans, 1967
At twelve Austen Deans knew he wanted to spend his life exploring the high country and mountain ranges of Canterbury. He became an en plein air artist and has made his living for nearly seventy-five years capturing images of mountains and natural landscapes in water colours and oils. Capturing Mountains is fully illustrated with examples of Austen Deans’s paintings. These range from those completed while he was still a student to some recent works painted in his nineties. The book describes Austen’s life as a painter and mountaineer, his place in New Zealand’s history as a direct descendant of the Canterbury pioneers John and Jane Deans and his connection to the 18th century, British novelist, Jane Austen. It follows his progress as an artist in a series of letters written to his family while a prisoner of war from 1941-1945. As a P.O.W. he explored Modernist painting styles and managed to send a number of these works home. On his return to New Zealand he rejected experimental techniques and made his name in the late 1940s and 1950s as a skilled representational painter. Throughout the 1960s his exhibitions were so popular that, at times, people queued in the street to get in. He won the Kelliher Art Prize in 1962 and 1963 and was placed second in 1969 and 1970. In 1995 he was awarded an OBE for his services to art. While he has always been a devoted family man, mountain climbing remained his greatest enthusiasm. Shortly before his 80th birthday he became the oldest person to cross the 2105-metre Ball Pass on the Mount Cook Range. He was still making more gentle ascents at the age of 90. It was his love of the mountains that inspired many of his greatest paintings.
Nathalie Brown has been a bookseller, broadcaster, publicist, oral history compiler and freelance writer. Since 1982 her arts, travel, heritage, business and life-style features have appeared in newspapers and magazines in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Her documentaries have been broadcast on ABC National Radio and Radio New Zealand National Programme. She won REINZ awards for Excellence in Property Journalism in 2003, 2004 and 2006 for portfolios of features carried in NZ House & Garden. She lives in Oamaru. Capturing Mountains is her first book