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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)

Landscape Glory and the Artist

Landscape Glory and the Artist.

Much as has been written about Milford Sound, the crowning feature of our Fiordland, and much as it has been photographed, I have often felt that it will never receive its full measure of justice until some artist of genius captures on canvas its strange and overpowering beauty. It is a place that can never be exaggerated by the painter. There are cliffs there, iceshaved walls, that go straight up for three-quarters of a mile, and that in a place where the sea-canyon is barely a third of a mile wide and the dark water more than a thousand feet deep. That amazing pinnacle Mitre Peak is a mile high. I have been reading again an eloquent address given a few years ago, on the subject of Mount Everest, by Lieut.-Colonel Sir Francis Young-husband, the President of the Royal Geographical Society, which can be given a New Zealand application. The great traveller said:

“The geography of Mount Everest and its vicinity will not be complete until it has been painted by some great painter and described by some great poet. Making the most accurate map of it will not be completing our knowledge of it. The map-maker only prepares the way—in some cases for the soldier or the politician or the engineer —in this case for the geologist, the naturalist, and above all for the painter and the poet. Until we have a picture and a poem—in prose or verse—of Mount Everest we shall not really know it; our geography will be incomplete, and indeed will lack its chief essential.”

Younghusband expressed, too, the feeling some of us have experienced when looking at photographs of beautiful and grand mountain scenes and such places of huge landscape features as Milford. He said he almost wept to see—referring to certain superb photographs of the Himalayas—“how little of the real character of great mountains they communicate to us.”

One has seen some beautiful photographs of Fiordland landscapes, but the distinctive grandeur of Milford, its hugeness of dimensions and the overwhelming straightness of its granite walls, and grimness with all a rich and glowing colour, are qualities that elude the best camera. The artist's pencil and brush are needed to convey in full the impression that the Sound scenery makes on the mind of the beholder, a barbaric beauty that is deepened by certain atmospheric conditions. We need a Van der Velden to show Milford as it is when, for example, the shadows of coming storms give the place a terrible glory, or again when the mists are lifting after heavy rain and when the grey and green precipices are silver-laced everywhere with cascades and rainbow-lit veils of spray.