Peter Siddell

Sir Peter Siddell

New Zealand (1935 - 2011)

As one of New Zealand’s most prominent realist painters, Sir Peter Siddell was perhaps best-known for his unpopulated cityscapes which appear familiar, yet are not identifiable. He drew together different elements from a variety of sources to create timeless images of neighbourhoods that look uninhabited despite there being evidence of earlier human presence. These cities are clean, tidy, carless and unpeopled. The houses’ interiors, seen through clean windows, are empty. The presence of people is implied by such devices as a door left open, or a view that is placed immediately in front of the viewer. It is as if all the inhabitants of that city or neighbourhood have fled, leaving their buildings in perfect condition. 

While his works appear to be records of actual places, most of Siddell’s paintings have a subjective component. Memory association and invention play roles in those compositions.

In her 1994 essay published in From the Isthmus, Julie Roberts described Siddell’s work as such:

The predominance of the urban image in his oeuvre sets Siddell apart from many of his contemporaries. The landscape has tended to dominate New Zealand painting and although the unique topography of this country is an essential component of his work, Siddell subordinates the landscape to the city. Or more correctly perhaps, he consistently juxtaposes the city with the land. Nature and human habitation co-exist.’

In 1991 Siddell was awarded the Queens Service Order in the New Years Honours as a testament to his services in the Arts and in January 2008 he was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM).

His paintings are included in the collections of every major gallery in New Zealand including the Auckland City Art Gallery (4 works) the National Gallery (3 works) and also the McDougall, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Waikato Art Gallery and the Suter Art Gallery in Nelson

Siddell’s work is represented in the Fletcher Challenge, Bank of New Zealand and Telecom Corporate Collections. There are also several works in the Brierley collection. Overseas he represents New Zealand in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs collection.

Peter Siddell is New Zealand’s master technician of the New Realism movement and his works that are uniquely New Zealand in style and context are held in esteem on a worldwide marketplace.