A tramp on Dorset’s Jurassic coast unearthed the background to a much admired portrait of Frances Hodgkins. 

Frances Hodgkins c. 1937

Frances Hodgkins c. 1937

The photographer of the iconic photograph of Frances Hodgkins has been revealed as Joan Muspratt

Hodgkins lived in Worth Matravers from 1936 – 1939, and painted some of her most important oils in a studio converted from a garden shed in the village.

Linda Gill (ed.), Letters of Frances Hodgkins, 23 July 1937, Letter to Rée Gorer, Sea View Cottage, Worth Matravers, Dorset. 

I started life here with a studio shed in the garden and one room – now I have spread over half the farmhouse & occupy quite a good little 3 roomed flat which I am decorating & simplifying to a labour saving bareness – with electric light & anthracite stove in the offing – to be installed before the winter. The house is a one time Vicarage, of the starkest kind, it never has had one single debonair touch – It overlooks the channel.  The mornings are lovely and I want to paint even before I have finished breakfast’.

In June 2018, whilst tramping on the Jurassic coast near Worth Matravers in search of locations where Hodgkins had painted, Auckland Art Dealer Jonathan Gooderham, made an exciting discovery. After a hot day walking the coastline from Chapman’s Pool to St Aldhelm’s Head, Gooderham was walking back through Worth Matravers village when, in need of refreshment, he spotted the village fete and art exhibition in the Worth Matravers village hall.

He asked the attendant at the art exhibition if she had heard of the New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins, and was told that the lady at the cake stall may know something. To his surprise, the lady on the sponge cake stall knew a friend who had often talked about Frances Hodgkins. This introduction led to Jessica Sutcliffe who had recently written a book about her mother, Helen Muspratt who had owned a photographic studio in nearby Swanage. In the late 1930’s her sister Joan, took over the studio and specialised in portraits. It was Joan Muspratt who had taken the iconic photograph of Frances  wearing a beret and Fairisle jumper. The photograph had been published in her book Face: Shape and Angle, Helen Muspratt, Photographer by Jessica Sutcliffe (ISBN 978 1 5261 0084 9) and is reproduced above with the kind permission of Jessica Sutcliffe.

Joan Muspratt (Quetta, India 1908 – 1957 England) became well-known in Swanage and very much part of the local community. She photographed all the celebrations, carnivals and general happenings in the town. Her images of Purbeck’s wonderful coastline, ancient farmhouses, local quarrymen at work and members of the lifeboat crew provide a fascinating record of daily life at the time in a small seaside town and are still much valued. Many can be found at the local museum.

The single remaining studio copy of the photograph is fortunate to survive. The studio was extensively damaged by German bombing in 1942 and the majority of the studio’s early slides were destroyed.

Gooderham says, ‘It just shows that researching Frances Hodgkins is like the joining up the threads  in a spider’s web. Head in the right direction and with a large helping of serendipity, it is amazing what can be unearthed’!

Jonathan Gooderham, a West Country man by birth, has a longstanding interest in the works of Frances Hodgkins and regularly travels around the West Country of England searching out spots where Frances Hodgkins lived and painted. In June 2019 Gooderham will be exhibiting fourteen newly discovered paintings by Hodgkins at his gallery in Parnell, Auckland. The exhibition, Frances Hodgkins A New Zealand Modernist, opens on Thursday 30 May 2019.

Chapmans Bay, Jurassic Coastline near Worth Matravers.jpg

Chapmans Bay, Jurassic Coastline near Worth Matravers
Photo/Jonathan Gooderham

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The Village Hall, Worth Matravers, June 2018
Photo/Jonathan Gooderham

Worth Matravers.jpg

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 visit to Corfe Castle

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 Hodgkins 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 Gooderham, quite serendipitously, stumbled across the exact spot at which Felix Man captured Frances 72 years ago.

West Bailey, Corfe Castle. Jonathan Gooderham recreates the Frances Hodgkins Scene

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

Corfe and East Street from West Bailey.jpg

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


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