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Frances Hodgkins

Houses and Outhouses, Purbeck c.1938

Oil on canvas, 80 x 115 cm
Signed lower left
 


Houses and Outhouses, Purbeck, is one of Frances Hodgkins’ key late works. Exhibited to acclaim at the time, it was described by the artist as ‘unquestionably my high spot’. This painting was first shown in the 1941 Leicester Galleries exhibition, which included other major late oils and the recently discovered gouache Methodist Chapel. The exhibition was reviewed by John Piper, who extolled the artist’s ‘songlike expression’ and focused on her achievement as a colourist, borrowing terms, as others have, from music: ‘…it means talking of scintillations and explosions, chromatic runs and exciting leaps…’. But, acutely, he also described the work as an example of her ‘war art’, not because the work was of ‘tank traps’, but because ‘she has found…subjects that are symbolic enough: 'railed-in areas, concentration camps, of rusty milk cans, farm implements in disuse or dereliction, a man plucking fowl in an outhouse’. This interpretation places this and other related works by Hodgkins squarely within the context of neo-romanticism.

Piper was a central figure within neo-romanticism and his importance for and support of Hodgkins has been recognised. But his debt as an artist to her has perhaps been underestimated. From the rich painterly qualities of a work like this (once owned by Piper) it is clear that inspiration could run both ways. Houses and Outhouses, Purbeck verges on abstraction, divorced from the descriptive. In her 1946 Retrospective Exhibition this painting hung alongside Dairy Farm - a work depicting bright orange milk-churns. Both large oils see the artist, in her seventies, producing a significant contribution to British neo-romanticism through a sensuous and idiosyncratic painterliness.

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Iain Buchanan, Elizabeth Eastman and Michael Dunn, Frances Hodgkins, Paintings and Drawings. pp. 168-9


Provenance

John and Myfanwy Piper, Henley, Oxfordshire, England, 1941 – 1997

Private Collection, Dunedin, New Zealand

The Northern Club, Auckland, New Zealand, 2012

Exhibited

London, U.K. The Leicester Galleries, Paintings and Watercolours. October 1941 (No. 10)

London, U.K. The Lefevre Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition. November 1946 (No. 20)

London, U.K. The Art Council of Great Britain, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Frances Hodgkins (1869 – 1947). 1952 (No. 14)

London, U.K. Tate Gallery and The Arts Council of Great Britain, Ethel Walker, Frances Hodgkins, Gwen John – Memorial Exhibition.  7 May – 15 June 1952 (No. 71)

Dunedin, N.Z. Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Virtue and Beauty: Frances Hodgkins' Landscape of Change. April 2002  

Auckland, N.ZJohn Leech Gallery, Opening Exhibition. April 2001 (No. 5)

Auckland, N.ZJonathan Grant Galleries, Frances Hodgkins. The Expatriate Years. April 2012. Sold to The Northern Club

Auckland, N.Z. Auckland Art Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys, May - September 2019

Dunedin, N.Z. Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys, 19 October 2019 - 26 January 2020

Literature

'Frances Hodgkins', Horizon Vol. 4 No. 24, December 1941. Ill. p. 414

Linda Gill (editor), Letters of Frances Hodgkins (AUP, 1993) p. 519

'The Life and Art of Frances Hodgkins', The Listener, 21st November 1946. Ill. pp. 705-6

Arthur R. Howell, Frances Hodgkins, Four Vital Years. Cat. p. 121 & 123

Iain Buchanan, Elizabeth Eastman and Michael Dunn, Frances Hodgkins, Paintings and Drawings. Cat. p. 168, Ill. p. 169

Illustrated

Catherine Hammond & Mary Kisler (ed.) Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys (Auckland University Press 2019) Figure 8.14