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Frances Hodgkins

Ibiza, 1933

Watercolour on paper, 35.5 x 48.3 cm
Signed Frances Hodgkins lower right
Inscribed Ibiza lower left
 


To Karl Hagedorn, 29 January 1933. Hotel Balear, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.

I must say, in this clear ivory light every common object looks important and significant ….things appear in stark simplicity minus all detail – nothing corked up (bouchée) or hidden in grey, or brown light of the North. Of course, later on, this intense sun light will convert colour & form into absolute negation but at the moment there is complete lovlieness. The pale coloured flat roofed houses without windows give a blind restful feeling, of immense space.

Rée Gorer, mother of social anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer, became a great patron of Hodgkins’ work, and it was her purchase of a painting that enabled the artist in late 1932 to escape the British winter and fund the last of her long continental journeys, south to Ibiza in the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Following the establishment of a tourist trade and the opening of the first hotels in the 1930s, Ibiza became increasingly popular with artists, writers and architects who came to study its indigenous building tradition.

Hodgkins was in Ibiza from October 1932 until the following July, meeting up with English artist Gwen Knight and New Zealander May Smith. She painted a large number of images of the town’s architecture and the local animals, observing a special breed of long-legged dog, as well as mules, horses, asses, cats and ‘caged birds by the dozen’.

To Karl Hagedorn, 3 January 1933. Hotel Balear, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.

The show is the thing – I must set London talking – they expect it of me – my Dealers - & it is a rotten bad thought to fill one’s mind – but down here I forget all about it & think only of the jolly things I see round me and the awful urge to get at them…

By early May 1933 Hodgkins was feeling the pressure of her work, and ‘straining’ to complete a commission, she sought temporary respite by travelling to the other side of the island of Ibiza. In a letter to her friend Dorothy Selby she suggested she lived ‘too close to [her] work’, while her accommodation was far from ideal she lived and painted in a ‘smallish badly lit room’. At that stage spare rooms were unobtainable in Ibiza on account of the influx of Jewish refugees from Germany. Hodgkins was observing developments that would be of increasing international concern as the decade progressed, reporting a ‘war scare’ and, among other things, a ‘tightening up of passports.’

The 1933 watercolour Ibiza was painted from an elevated viewpoint. It shows the town dominated by the Puig des Moulins (Hill of Windmills), while one such structure, prominent on the right, appears to have had its sails ‘deconstructed’ and thereby been reduced to essential elements, much as Hodgkins did with other subjects. Elsewhere, old stone buildings appear in outline only, reflecting the intense Mediterranean sunlight, while foreground vegetation is reduced to calligraphic squiggles. This liveliness of the scene continues overhead, where the sky is captured economically as a series of slashes of bright blue pigment.

Because of the various pressures she was experiencing at Ibiza, Hodgkins decided to postpone her next exhibition in London, planned for the spring, until autumn. Works produced on the spot on the island were eventually included in New Watercolour Drawings, in October-November 1933. This was her first solo exhibition with the Lefevre Gallery, which she shared with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.

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Written by Richard Wolfe
Research by Jonathan Gooderham


Exhibited

London, U.K. Lefevre Gallery, New Watercolours and Drawings. October - November 1933 (No. 12). Sold to Mrs A Carlisle

Manchester, U.K. City of Manchester Art Gallery. (No. 16)

U.K. C.E.M.A. exhibition, Contemporary Watercolours and gouaches

U.K. C.E.M.A. exhibition, Sir Edward Marsh Collection

U.K. Arts Council of Great Britain touring Exhibition, sponsored by Isle of Purbeck Arts Club, Swanage, Bournemouth, Totnes, St Ives. March - May 1948 (No. 30)

Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: A Singular Artist. July 2016

Provenance

Collection: Mrs Anne Carlisle, Cambridge, U.K.

Collection: Sir Edward Marsh (1872 – 1953), London U.K.
 

Literature

Arthur R. Howell, Frances Hodgkins: Four Vital Years (Rockliff, London 1951) pp. 101, 118, 128

Roger Collins and Iain Buchanan, Frances Hodgkins on Display 1890 - 1950 (Hocken Library 2000) p. 68 No. 12