Paul Hanrahan


New Zealand b. 1936

Paul Hanrahan’s keen observation of everyday life allows him to paint his animated subjects with confident impressionistic brushstrokes, full of flair.

Born in Christchurch, Hanrahan began his career as an advertising art director in Melbourne. Upon returning to Wellington in 1960, a brief but encouraging foray into watercolour painting resulted in three consecutive National Bank Awards.

For two decades his demanding career put his painting ambitions on the back burner. His first solo exhibition in 1983 and his invited participation at the International Watercolor Biennale in Mexico in 1996 sparked a keen following, but it was not until 1998 that Hanrahan emerged as a full-time professional artist, cementing his place in the world of watercolour both here and overseas.

It is rare to find a work by Hanrahan that does not involve people in some way, whether they are dining in a street café or watching from the sidelines of a sports match. With a quick and skilled brush he executes paintings that are energetic and modern. It is fair to say that in Hanrahan’s work, importance lies in what is left out of the image as well as what is put in. Unlike oil painting the white of the ground is used to accentuate highlights and reflections in a scene. Hanrahan says: “The whiteness of paper is important and I try and use only one wash where possible…this gives the work a luminosity.’’

Published: New Zealand Favourite Artists (Vol. 1) A Painted Country, New Zealand Watercolours