Colorful painting by artist Mathias Kauage

Mathias Kauage (Mingu Village, Kundiawa-Gembogl District, Chimbu [Simbu] Province, now in the independent country of Papua New Guinea, ca. 1944–2003). Kauage Flies to Scotland for Opening of New Museum of Contemporary Art (detail), 1999. Acrylic on canvas, 47 1/4 x 72 1/16 in. (120 x 183 cm). Museum purchase, Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions, 2023.71. Courtesy of Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, London

Contemporary Painting in Papua New Guinea: Mathias Kauage and His Family

Mathias Kauage (ca. 1944–2003) is acclaimed for his boldly colorful paintings of a world radically changing around him in the late 20th century. This exhibition features four paintings from our collection by Mathias and his family, on view for the first time. During his lifetime, Mathias experienced dramatic societal shifts — not only during the decades under colonial Australian administration but also after Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975. Both periods are a focus of his work. In the late 1970s, Mathias and his wife, Elizabeth (Elisabet), led the contemporary arts movement in the newly independent country, which explored nationhood and technological advancement. Later works also addressed issues such as the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The circle of artists working in their style grew to encompass their children, including adopted son Apa Hugo. They, along with Elizabeth, continue their father’s artistic legacy today as professional painters.

In depth

Read on for more information on the works on view.

Sensitive content: Please be advised that one of the paintings in this section depicts domestic violence. 

Colorful painting by artist Mathias Kauage

Mathias Kauage (Mingu Village, Kundiawa-Gembogl District, Chimbu [Simbu] Province, now in the independent country of Papua New Guinea, ca. 1944–2003). Kauage Flies to Scotland for Opening of New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999. Acrylic on canvas. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions, INC2023.66. Photograph by Randy Dodson

Woman with one leg

Elizabeth (Elisabet) Kauage (Miugu Village, Kerowagi District, Chimbu [Simbu] Province, now in the independent country of Papua New Guinea, ca. 1945). One-legged woman & her piglet., 2008. Acrylic on canvas. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Richard Hogg, 2011.50.4. Photograph by Jorge Bachmann

Colorful painting of a married couple

Apa Hugo (Kangri Village, Kundiawa-Gembogl District, Chimbu [Simbu] Province, now in the independent country of Papua New Guinea, ca. 1975), Tupela Marit istap meri i gat sin na tupe . . . , 2006. Acrylic on canvas. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Richard Hogg, 2011.50.2. Photograph by Jorge Bachmann

Three women from the Highlands wearing feathered regalia

Apa Hugo (Kangri Village, Kundiawa-Gembogl District, Chimbu [Simbu] Province, now in the independent country of Papua New Guinea, ca. 1975). Elekopta Karim ol Pasindias igo Long Pogera Gold Mine, 2006. Acrylic on canvas. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Richard Hogg, 2011.50.3. Photograph by Jorge Bachmann

Also on view