John Foster

Commentary - Beckoning Land

Beckoning Land Series

1973 – 1975, paintings and prints, 598 works



The beach in wintertime

This series preceded Picnic on the Beach. Like Picnic on the Beach, it is set at Mangawhai Heads, where John and family were living at the time.

John at the beach

The initial paintings were begun in 1973, and John intended to capture the beauty of the environment rather than consciously painting a series.

They portray the solitude and natural beauty of the beach in winter.

Early images of summertime crowds are apparent in the paintings of January 1975, and later Beckoning Land formed a contrast to the bright colour and activity of the summertime crowds in Picnic on the Beach.

“My intention was to explore rather than define finished works, and the process of my mind moving on to more variations on a theme is evident.” -- John Foster

The colours used in the paintings are predominantly the blues and browns of the winter seascapes. John was attempting to capture the movement of the sea and reflection of light off water, and made many preliminary paintings of quick drying acrylic paint on paper.

Many of the preliminary paintings were done from the cliff tops at Mangawhai Heads and feature the estuary and the sandbar. John was often accompanied on painting expeditions by a retired sheep dog, a pet lamb, and a toddler.

The paintings were never assembled into a mural. At this stage in his career John did not set out to deliberately paint murals, and the assembly of one depended on inspiration and available space in the workshop.

John became immersed in painting Picnic on the Beach immediately afterward. Nine paintings from Beckoning Land form the beginning of Picnic on the Beach mural.

John was experimenting with portraying water, sand, and sky with lithographs at this time. Over 300 editions of prints accompanied the paintings. Many of the editions differ only slightly from each other, and the editions are very small.

“What I was struggling with in printmaking was the lithograph. Lithography at the best of times is difficult, and my experiments were more so, but I found I could erase of add parts of the image to the plate as I wanted.” -- John Foster

John also made 92 unique panorama prints of three or four plates laid side by side.

A panorama print

A series of 14 lithographs titled ‘Sunrise Over Sea’ demonstrate the progression of a sunrise, and are similar in style to the Beckoning Land lithographs.


Series also includes:

Waves on the foreshore

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