House in the Countryside c.1930-35
Watercolour, 63 x 45 cm
Signed Frances Hodgkins lower left
It is most likely that this painting, depicting a country house and landscape, was completed in the early-mid 1930s. Hodgkins’ distinctive combination of pinks and greens in this painting is highly characteristic of her unique and ‘different palette’ that she used during this period. It is probable that the scene depicted is one of a series of paintings that Hodgkins completed of Geoffrey Gorer’s cottage in Bradford-on-Tone, Somerset. Hodgkins returned regularly to Gorer’s cottage after she met him in the late 1920s.
The painting clearly shows the development of her style in the twenties - ‘The naturalistic content of her work is still present, but the picture surface is more important than an illusion of atmosphere and space.’ The landscape has been completely flattened and divided into clear segments of contrasting colour. The large tufts of grass, curving trees and small gates combine to produce a semi-abstract pattern, and heighten the sense of spatial ambiguity. The success of the painting lies in Hodgkins’ mastery of subtle tones and gestural line, which unifies the composition and provides an inviting, harmonious aspect.
In a letter to Duncan MacDonald in 1934, Hodgkins wrote of her method of painting while staying at the Gorer cottage, as a combination of the natural and the imagined, stating, ‘I go out into the fields every day, among the red cattle, strike an attitude and paint a composite picture – a sort of wish fulfilment of a picture.’
Written by Jonathan Gooderham
Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe. 2008
Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2008), p. 5