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The West Bailey at Corfe Castle

FRANCES hodgkins at CORFE CASTLE

The first stone of Corfe Castle was laid more than 1,000 years ago. Since then it’s seen its fair share of battles, mysteries and plots. It’s been a treasury, military garrison, royal residence, family home and in recent years a much visited historical landmark.

Frances Hodgkins first visited Corfe Castle in 1934 in an attempt to take ‘refuge’ in the countryside and to reconnect with her friend from St Ives, the potter Amy Krauss. Frances eventually made Corfe Castle her permanent home in 1940 when she could no longer travel back and forth to Europe. She believed that Corfe was the place for quiet ones. Living in Corfe Castle gave her the opportunity to work 'moderately hard, moderately successful in a landscape of steep valleys speedy rivers & castles looking like their own mountains.'

In the summer of 1945 photographer Felix Man paid Frances a visit and, though she was one to shy away from the camera, took a number of photos of the artist. 


Frances in West Bailey, Corfe Castle, 25 July 1945
Courtesy of the Felix Man Collection
Alexander Turnbull Library

West Bailey, Corfe Castle, June 2017
Photo/Jonathan Gooderham

After a number of trips to Corfe Castle over the years, in June 2017 Jonathan, quite serendipitously, stumbled across the exact spot at which Felix Man captured Frances 72 years ago.

In the West Bailey he meet a lovely couple with a young daughter who agreed to help Jonathan recreate the scene. And, rather fortuitously, as he was readying his camera, a woman not dissimilar in age to Hodgkins sat herself down to take in the views! The resulting photo closely echoes Felix Man's.


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Corfe and East Street as seen from the West Bailey
Courtesy of the Felix Man Collection
Alexander Turnbull Library

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The same view towards the village June 2017
Photo/Jonathan Gooderham


ABOUT CORFE CASTLE

Corfe Castle is a fortification standing above the village of the same name on the Isle of Purbeck in the English county of Dorset. Built by William the Conqueror, the castle dates back to the 11th century and commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills on the route between Wareham and Swanage. The first phase was one of the earliest castles in England to be built at least partly using stone - the majority were built with earth and timber. Corfe Castle underwent major structural changes in the 12th and 13th centuries.

In 1572, Corfe Castle left the Crown's control when Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Christopher Hatton. Sir John Bankes bought the castle in 1635, and was the owner during the English Civil War. His wife, Lady Mary Bankes, led the defence of the castle when it was twice besieged by Parliamentarian forces. The first siege, in 1643, was unsuccessful, but by 1645 Corfe was one of the last remaining royalist strongholds in southern England and fell to a siege ending in an assault. In March that year Corfe Castle was demolished on Parliament's orders.

Owned by the National Trust, the castle is open to the public. It is protected as a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Photo of Corfe Castle/Herbythyme


LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF CORFE CASTLE


'The Nook' at Bodinnick-by-Fowey

The Nook’ no fool could stand

In August 1931 Frances Hodgkins decided to leave the bustling city of London for a quieter life in the country and consequently moved to ‘The Nook’, Bodinnick-by-Fowey in Cornwall. In a letter to Dorothy Selby, Frances wrote, ‘The Nook is neither of the “Rookery” or the “Cosy” sort but suits my needs – no other fool could stand it.’ Frances painted the surrounding countryside relentlessly, as she feared her contract with galleries in London might be terminated because of the ever-worsening depression, caused by the stock market crash in 1929. Her hard work paid off and in February 1932 she exhibited with the Seven and Five Society and later that year with the Salford Gallery near Manchester, and also with Zwemmer, Tooth’s & Wertheim galleries in London.

IMAGE TOP: View of Ferryside; looking down towards the harbour, Bodinnick-by-Fowey 2014


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‘The Nook’ (circled left) overlooking Ferryside
© Cornwall Guide

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Looking up at ‘The Nook’ 2014; where Frances stayed and painted in 1931


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‘BLACK SHIPS ON THE RIVER’: PAINTING FERRYSIDE

Fowey is a natural deep water harbour that has served as an important trading port since the 14th century. Large ships sail up the narrow river to pick up cargoes of china clay brought down from St Austells for export to destinations all over the world. Two such ships appear in the watercolour Bodinnick, Cornwall and the oil Wings on Water (Leeds Art Gallery Collection). Frances made mention of them in a letter to Dorothy Selby in December 1931: ‘... the colour is so dark & sodden with damp. Bracken is bright red - black ships on the river ....

In the watercolour Bodinnick, Cornwall the ships play a major part in the composition, dominating the harbour. They are almost indistinguishable from Ferryside, appearing as an extension of the house. Their large chimneys and graphic masts eventually give them away. In contrast, they appear as toy ships in the oil Wings on Water as Ferryside stands apart with its crisp white colouring.


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Detail of Bodinnick, Cornwall c.1931

The same view of Ferryside 2014

 

Wings on Water, 1931-32

LEEDS ART GALLERY COLLECTION


The Nook, Bodinnick by Fowey, Cornwall. c.10 December 1931

The weather here is soft grey & mild ...

In the work, Bodinnick, Cornwall, Frances' studio window acts to frame the piece beyond which the vista rapidly unfolds. Her use of colour is comparatively subdued as broad washes of colour are liberally applied with only a cursory regard for outlines. Movement is effectively conveyed through dashes and strokes of pigment with the scudding clouds being given only the briefest of marks.

The thickly-painted black gate in the foreground is central to the compositional success of the work. Providing a solid almost tangible presence, the gate gives way to shrubbery, houses and boats that are drawn with a thin, confident line. Indeed, the gate works to guide the viewer through the painting – enticing us to open the gate and wander down the narrow streets and towards the harbour of Bodinnick-by-Fowey.

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Bodinnick, Cornwall c.1931

PRIVATE COLLECTION

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It is significant to note that a series of watercolours painted by Frances at ‘The Nook’ were selected by the Tate Gallery at this time and sent to Chicago for exhibition, testifying to their compositional success and persuasive allure.

IMAGE TOP: Ferryside © Christian Browning


DAPHNE DU MAURIER: A RATHER DISTURBING FEATURE

Once she settled in, Frances found her new Cornish environment immensely stimulating not only because of the beautiful natural surroundings, but also because of her new neighbours. She wrote of them to Dorothy Selby on the 21st of December 1931, saying:

‘I enclose a picture of The “Nook” which is my temporary home. The large white house in the right belongs to Sir Gerald du Maurier which he uses as a stage setting only in the summer – But his rather beautiful son-daughter lives here, Daphne, and is [a] rather disturbing feature in the extremely homely little village.

... She will wear male attire - very attractive but theatrical - wh. she is not, I believe, only merely literary.

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Daphne was born into a creative and successful family. Her grandfather was the brilliant artist and writer George du Maurier and her father was Gerald du Maurier, the most famous actor-manager and matinee idol of his day. Her mother, Muriel Beaumont, was also an actress.

Daphne du Maurier circa 1920s

She was the second of three sisters and had a privileged upbringing in Hampstead. In the 1920s the family bought a holiday home in Cornwall, and that house - Ferryside at Bodinnick - became Daphne's favourite haunt and a place of solitude that enabled her to work seriously on her early writing career.

In her autobiography Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer, Daphne recalls lodging at The Nook with Miss Roberts during the writing of her first novel. 

‘The last day of September came.  In a couple of days everyone, including M and Angela, would have gone. The house was to be shut up and it was arranged that I should lodge with Miss Roberts at The Nook, the cottage opposite.  I could keep my bedroom at Ferryside open so as to write there during the day.  But I would sleep, eat and live at The Nook...  No bathroom – Miss Roberts would fill a hip-bath with hot water every morning – and the “usual office” was up the garden path.  Who cared?  I’d be on my own.  And Miss Roberts, cheerful, smiling, gave ... me a warm welcome, the first of many which would follow through the years to come.  Dear Miss Roberts, who never looked askance at my shorts, or trousers, or muddy sea-boots, who struggled upstairs each morning with her can of hot water, who pretended not to notice when, disliking sausages for supper, I furtively threw them on the sitting-room fire where they crackled loudly, and whose pleasant tittle-tattle of village gossip, invariably without malice, proved so entertaining.’ 1929

Frances enjoyed similar hospitality with Miss Roberts during 1931; the year she began painting the elaborate oils Wings over Water (Tate Collection) and Wings on Water (Leeds Art Gallery Collection), both of which imitated the view from ‘The Nook’ across the river Fowey and featured Miss Roberts’ large red parrot with which Daphne had enjoyed many conversations.

IMAGE TOP: Detail of Wings Over Water, 1931-32 (TATE Collection); one of the most significant works of Frances' career - based on the vie from her studio window at ‘The Nook’.


REFERENCE | Linda Gill (ed.), Letters of Frances Hodgkins, Auckland University Press, 1993


Frances in Concarneau

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THE INFLUENCE OF THE FRENCH SEASIDE

In the early 1900s, Frances Hodgkins took it upon herself to further her career in Europe and Britain by holding painting classes and regular exhibitions of her work. In 1908 she became one of the first female teachers at the prestigious Académie Colarossi in Paris. Hodgkins toured around Normandy and Picardy with her group of students, sketching in the villages of Concarneau, Le Havre and St Valery-sur-Somme. It was on these teaching trips that Hodgkins met and befriended some of her most loyal companions, one of the most significant of which was Jane Saunders. Hodgkins first met Saunders and her partner, Hannah Ritchie, in 1911 at Concarneau and friends such as this pair, continually supported her throughout her life.

Hodgkins continued to paint and teach, and held regular sketching classes in France until the outbreak of the First World War (1914 -1918). 


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Frances Hodgkins painting at Concarneau, August 1910
Courtesy of E H McCormick Library, ACAG

The same view of Concarneau Harbour, 2013


   Tunny Boats in the Harbour, Concarneau c.1910   Black chalk and watercolour on paper, 59 x 60 cm
 

Tunny Boats in the Harbour,
Concarneau c.1910

PRIVATE COLLECTION

Tunny Boats in the Harbour, Concarneau c.1910 was painted at a pivotal time in Frances Hodgkins’s career. Between 1908 and 1912 she made a determined bid to position her art and her reputation in Paris. Besides providing a stimulating environment, France provided Hodgkins with the varied light, colours and subject matter that she wished to translate into her art. 

While living in Paris, Hodgkins became inundated with requests for tutoring, and in the winter of 1909-10, against the wishes of her mother, she cancelled her return trip to New Zealand in order to teach at one of the foremost private academies in Paris: the Académie Colarossi. It is notable that Hodgkins was one of the first female artists to teach at this prestigious institution. With the coming of the summer sketching season, she moved with her class of pupils to Brittany, and eventually settled in the sheltered fishing village of Concarneau. The town was a well known, but still unspoilt haunt for artists and it attracted well-established French painters, students and amateurs alike. In this idyllic location Hodgkins found the ideal subject matter, not only for her own artwork, but also for her eager students. She later wrote of her teaching experience from Paris on the 27th of November 1911 saying:

‘My Class is a real going concern now & a great success. I am refusing pupils on account of lack of space. I can only take 16 altogether – 8 in each class as the Studio is not large. Also I have several private pupils at a guinea an hour.’ 

The boats and harbour of Concarneau were popular subjects for artists at the time and regularly featured in the paintings of the Fauves and the Newlyn School. It is likely that the Newlyn artist, Norman Garstin, introduced Hodgkins to Concarneau. Before arriving at Concarneau, Hodgkins had painted a number of works in Europe that featured fishing vessels - several of which can be found in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.


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HOTEL DES VOYAGEURS & THE PARISIAN PRESS

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Hotel des Voyageurs, 2013

Frances stayed at the Hotel des Voyageurs in Concarneau from October to December 1910. It is here that she received news her work had caught the attention of the Parisian press - for the first time.

She writes to her mother in October: I would send on the press notices - but they are in French. I will only give you my word for it they say I am a deuced clever woman or words to that effect.
 

Grand Hotel des Voyageurs, Concarneau. c.15th October 1910

.... I am the only woman artist left in Concarneau.... A lot of men are turning up for the winter & settling into their studios. As I said in my last letter - I'll try & be good - if I can't be good I'll be careful - can't promise more! ... I go for walks by the sad sea walls - when it is too dark to paint - They are never sad for me I love them so & the gulls & the big sky overhead. 

Hotel des Voyageurs, Concarneau. 22nd December 1910

‘Three days till Xmas! Most glorious weather ... a whole week of it a delightful surprise like the currant in the seed cake. Camellias are blooming out of doors & i am expecting the first snowdrop to pop up any minute... I am boisterously well ... it is so much more soothing to live among simple peasants than wild eyed people of both sexes clamouring & grovelling after fame & filthy lucre ...

IMAGE ABOVE: Hotel des Voyageurs c.1911; from an album that belonged to Hannah Ritchie • Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington


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Still Life with Fish c.1910

PRIVATE COLLECTION

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Concarneau. 28th July 1910

‘I eat at a little café where I get large platefuls of soup & sardines & crabs & veal & beefsteaks very raw & red & nearly always green peas stewed with onions & lots of sugar which taste much better than they sound- all washed down with copious quantities of red wine & very sour cider…’

Still Life with Fish was painted around 1910 and is most likely to have been painted as a ‘teaching demonstration’ for one of Hodgkins’s Concarneau art classes.

In her Concarneau works, Hodgkins utilised the ‘wet-on-wet’ technique - a technique that she developed in Europe, in order to bring her watercolours to life. This method saw a flurry of line, broad washes of colour and often large expanses of untouched paper that serve to highlight the confidence of the composition and the rapidity with which these works were executed. An example of this is seen in Still Life with Fish, which possesses a vibrant immediacy as though the work has only just been finished. As a result, the work is palpably real and is a supreme example of Hodgkins’s skill at capturing fleeting moments in time.

Hodgkins’s focus on the independent forms of the serving utensils and fish combines to produce an almost abstract patterned effect. Combined with her use of multiple viewpoints and tilting planes, the watercolour acknowledges the two-dimensional reality of the paper and in doing so pays homage to the father of modern art and the abstracted still life: Paul Cézanne.


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Frances' class at Le Plage des Sables-Blancs, c.1910
Editions Villard Quimper

Le Plage des Sables-Blancs (now known as Plage de Cornouailles), Concarneau 2013


THE ATLANTIC HOTEL & SYDNEY LOUGH THOMPSON'S STUDIO

Frances stayed at the L'Atlantic Hotel on Quai Peneroff in the summer of 1914 during which she was giving 2 lessons a day. The stay was short-lived due to the outbreak of the First World War.

She writes to her mother 29th July 1914: ‘...we are all perturbed & anxious over the war alarms & feel that any moment things may happen & we may have to disperse. 

The L'Atlantic Hotel next to Sydney Lough Thompson's green and red timbered studio, Concarneau 2013

The building on the right of the L'Atlantic Hotel was once the residence and studio of fellow expatriate artist Sydney Lough Thompson.

Thompson relocated to Concarneau in 1913 with his wife Ethel. From 1921 he rented the second and third floors of the timbered building next to the L'Atlantic Hotel from the French painter & ceramicist Théophile Deyrolle, who became a close friend. From there Thompson could observe the daily bustle of the port, which became a favourite subject for the artist until 1933 when the family made the decision to return to New Zealand. When Thompson returned to the village in 1937 he found himself disenchanted. The modernisation of the small fishing village and the absence of the sardine and tunny boats that once filled the harbour had done away with Concarneau's ‘irresistible picturesqueness*. Thompson's dismay caused him to change his artistic focus to the land and the painting of the churches and farmyards that dominate his later works.

* Thompson, S.L. Pictures of Brittany and Provence, Armagh Street Gallery, Christchurch, 1934

IMAGE ABOVE: L'Atlantic Hotel c.1910 • Editions Villard Quimper


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View from Sydney Lough Thompson's studio balcony, Concarneau 2013; the once "bustling" port can be seen right beneath the old fortifications, and the local market continues to be held at the carpark seen left

Sydney Lough Thompson
Drying Sails, Tunny Boats in Concarneau Harbour
PRIVATE COLLECTION


FRANCES REacts to THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR ONE in letters to her mother

Atlantic-Hotel, Concarneau. 29th July 1914

‘... As artists we all feel our present insignificance in the scheme of things. Why work? Who wants it? Who cares? England is working passionately for peace & if only Time can be gained War may yet be averted, or rather localised. All this talk of Peace & here we are at each other's throats. What a little distance we have advanced in civilisation really - the more we change the more we are the same.

Atlantic-Hotel, Concarneau. 31st July 1914

‘... It's impossible even to dream what may happen. The world has never before been faced by such a calamity - it confounds us all.’

Concarneau. 4th August 1914

‘My Dearest Mother,

This is a record of events in Concarneau since the Declaration of War on Sat. 1st Aug.

Saturday was a day of suspense and agitation. Nobody could work. We hung round the Mairie and Port Office waiting for news. Being Saturday the Port was full of fishermen, all very drunk. About 5 the town crier announced the fateful news we were all waiting for-Declaration of War by Germany and General Mobilisation of the French Army.

... Since Sunday - two days ago, no news from the outside world - gloom deeper than the deepest has settled on us - no letters, no papers, rain in torrents our beautiful tunnyboats "all gone like butterflies" ...’


REFERENCE | Linda Gill (ed.), Letters of Frances Hodgkins, Auckland University Press, 1993


MERCI à Françoise Gloux DE Galerie GLOUX


Lesson Demonstration

LESSON DEMONSTRATION, BURFORD

To Dorothy Selby, 26 April 1923. Studio, St.Lawrence’s Street, Burford, Oxon. 

‘I shall be most pleased to give you some coaching in the summer, or as soon after May 14th as you like. My Season starts then. My terms are 4 guineas a month a course of 12 demonstration lessons, or I can give you the course in a shorter time if desirable . . .’

Frances Hodgkins’ principal teaching method in her art classes were 'lesson demonstrations'. Today, these demonstrations serve as unique records of her teaching technique and style, and illustrate both the confident fluidity of her brushwork and her keen eye for the nuances of light and colour.

Executed rapidly, pencil marks in Lesson Demonstration, Burford are still visible beneath the washes of colour. Hodgkins evidently sketched the significant landmarks in front of her with pencil and then applied swathes of loose, thin paint, which were allowed to bleed and merge in many areas. In transcribing the vista, all attention is given over to capturing the bare essential forms of the landscape and the chromatic variances of the scene so that the work consequently assumes an abstract quality.


   Lesson Demonstration, Burford c.1923   Private Collection   Read More →

Lesson Demonstration, Burford c.1923
Private Collection

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 The same view present day

The same view present day


REFERENCE | Linda Gill (ed.), Letters of Frances Hodgkins, Auckland University Press, 1993


Chipping Campden & 'Lady Juliana's Gateway'

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CHIPPING CAMPDEN & LADY JULIANA'S GATEWAY

In the summer of 1916 Hodgkins set out in search of a suitable village from which to take classes. Basing herself in the small town of Evesham, she explored nearby villages on a hired bicycle, finally deciding upon the quaint market town of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire.

Hodgkins took accomodation at the historic Noel Arms Hotel, where Charles II is said to have rested after his defeat to Cromwell at the battle of Worcester. 

She wrote to her mother on June 22nd: "... After a hot climb up the Cotswolds I found this place as dear a little grey town as you could wish to see & such a nice Inn & landlady who understands our temperament & feeds us well & simply."

  The Noel Arms Hotel  | Chipping Campden

The Noel Arms Hotel | Chipping Campden

By July Hodgkins was kept busy with a "thriving" class and the promise of greater numbers in August. "Not much time to spare these days. I am on the go early and late ... I have a cold bath at 6.30, get my letters & answer them before breakfast, when we all assemble to discuss the order of the day. - then out till 1. o'c, after lunch a siesta & again to work after an early tea - dinner at 7.30."

However in August she began to grow tired, writing of her pupils: "They are a dull lot of human beings, & I ... curse secretly at having to lay out so much strength & energy into such unpromising material." By September she was "brain fagged" with "nothing left in the reservoir" and was very much looking forward to saying goodbye to her students.  

In a letter to her mother dated September 9th, Frances wrote of finally being able to take time and finish her paintings for an upcoming exhibition:

"A short line to say I am well but very busy finishing off pupils who depart tomorrow ...

I stay on till the end of the month finishing my picture for the International then back to St Ives ... The country is looking sweet now - the horrible greens has gone ... I am on a large picture of bathing boys. There is a pool in one of the fields, rather public, & I have to dodge the villagers & especially the Superintendent of Police who suspects I have some stunt up my sleeve not quite. I bribe the boys to bathe at 1/ - a head & buns all round - I have to go like the wind for fear of being caught, but I have nearly finished now. The pool is really rather a mud hole & full of rats, but it has a lovely old ruined gateway near it & makes a pretty picture for a pastoral..."

The painting referred to by Hodgkins is the lively Lady Juliana's Gateway. On a past trip to the UK, Jonathan, having walked over three fields and waded through two brooks, was able to find the ruined gateway. The resulting photograph is shown below, alongside Hodgkins' watercolour.


   Lady Juliana's Gateway   Private Collection, Auckland, NZ

Lady Juliana's Gateway
Private Collection, Auckland, NZ

 The "old ruined gateway" present day

The "old ruined gateway" present day


REFERENCE | Linda Gill (ed.), Letters of Frances Hodgkins, Auckland University Press, 1993


Burford High Street

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BURFORD HIGH STREET

To Rachel Hodgkins, 27 December 1921. London.

.... I have at last fixed on Burford, a small town about 20 mile from Oxford & 2 hours from London. You may remember I was there once before, or rather in the next village, Great Barrington, and liked it, & found the Cotswold country very paintable & the air splendidly bracing.

Burford High Street, Oxfordshire, painted by Hodgkins circa 1922, depicts the main thoroughfare of the town. During his trip to the Cotswolds in 2013, Jonathan stopped by the town of Burford making sure to capture the same view down High Street present day. Not much has changed!

A historic photograph of the street taken circa 1920 is illustrated top for further comparison and as an indication of what Frances would have seen as she painted.


   Burford High Street, Oxfordshire c.1922   Private Collection, Auckland, NZ   Read More →

Burford High Street, Oxfordshire c.1922
Private Collection, Auckland, NZ

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  Burford High Street 2013

Burford High Street 2013


FRANCES HODGKINS' STUDIO IN BURFORD

To Rachel Hodgkins, 13 January 1922. Studio, St Lawrence’s St, Burford, Oxon.

…[The Studio] is a lovely old barn. I have bought 8 old chairs for 10/-… an old counter for a table, an iron bedstead & various adjuncts including a black kitten, young of Mrs. Plosh of Park Farm, Barrington. It takes plenty of nerve to climb my ladder – a handrail will be necessary if visitors are not to break the neck in the semi-darkness of a winter afternoon.

In 1922 Frances Hodgkins moved to the Cotswolds town of Burford about twenty miles from Oxford. There she rented a "lovely old barn", which was to serve as a studio and as her living quarters, and with unquenchable hope was planning for the future. She was determined to make the barn into a ‘Hodgkins centre’, where pupils could rally round and immerse themselves in art. At the same time she could not believe that she was settling down again in England after shaking its dust off her feet only a year before.


The Old Stone Barn & St John the Evangelist Church, Lawrence Lane 1920s

 

Lawrence Lane 2013

[ABOVE] The site of the old stone barn which, by the 1930s, had fallen into disrepair. Threatened with a corrugated iron roof, in 1937 it was demolished and replaced with a stone cottage designed by local architect Russell Cox.


To Rachel Hodgkins, 13 May 1922. Studio, St Lawrence’s St, Burford, Oxon.

I am sitting out in the sunshine - How long will it last? Spring is tardy in these parts. The winter nearly finished me but now I am pulling my exhausted self together & trying to forget all the little things of life that have annoyed me so much of late. At the moment my special affliction is church bells. The Oxford Bell Ringers are performing .... You would think all Burford is being married. I said to Mrs. Search my neighbour in the Lane "Why is this?" "Oh just an 'obby Miss" They started at 1/2 past 2 and now it is 5.30. It is about time they went back to Oxford.