Frances Hodgkins

Mother and Daughter Preparing Flowers c.1901/02

Watercolour, 29 x 22 cm
Signed with initials FH lower right

To Isabel Field, 30 September 1902. Patisserie Taffatz, Rue de l’Apport, Dinan.

Those market scenes are the outcome of great mental strain, with nerves at a tension & eyes bewildered with an ever moving crowd & ones senses all alert & linx eyed for effects & relations one thing to another.

Between 1901 and 1903, during her first trip to Europe, Frances Hodgkins joined the Penzance-based artist Norman Garstin’s sketching classes in Caudebec-en-Caux in 1901 and Dinan in 1902. There she met and befriended fellow artists; Maud Nickalls, Mrs Ashington, Peter Moffat Linder and Norman Garstin and his wife. Partaking in the art school afforded Hodgkins, for the first time, the opportunity to immerse herself in her art, unhampered by the distractions of family, friends, domestic life and teaching.

Her paintings from this period reveal her interest in the local street scenes of villages such as Caudebec, Honfleur and Dinan. Frances Hodgkins believed that in order to sell works she had to extend her repertoire to include en plein air paintings. She assumed that this technique would attract more buyers for her works, thus, on her first trip to France she ventured into the open countryside and local markets to capture these vibrant locations.

Her letters contain many references to the difficulties of painting out of doors. She felt that a lady artist at work in small town market places excited local curiosity and comment. These difficulties added their own unique influence to Hodgkins’s work. A rapid fluidity in her brushwork is visible in her watercolours of this period; as if she was trying to capture a multitude of colours, light configurations, shadows and people in a single swift brushstroke.

The present watercolour, Mother and Daughter Preparing Flowers from 1901/2, features a mother and child at a market stall, enlivened by the vibrant colours of the market place. Manipulating the wet-on-wet painting technique, Hodgkins cloaks the figures in an air of mystery as she leaves their forms undefined and offers only the briefest of allusions to the identity of a peasant mother and child. Between 1902 and 1903, Frances Hodgkins painted numerous watercolour scenes of the market stalls in Dinan and Arles, which she subsequently sent back to New Zealand for exhibition. Similar paintings to the present piece are held in the permanent collections of Theomin Gallery, Dunedin, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Auckland Art Gallery and the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.

Written by Jonathan Gooderham


Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: The Expatriate Years. April 2012


Joanne Drayton, Frances Hodgkins: A Private Viewing (Auckland, 2005), p. 63.

Frances Hodgkins: The Expatriate Years, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2012), p. 3


Private collection, Auckland


Joanne Drayton, Frances Hodgkins: A Private Viewing (Auckland, 2005), p. 63.