Frances Hodgkins

Old Woman, Caudebec, 1901

Watercolour & gouache, 50 x 32 cm
Signed FH lower right & dated ’01

Frances Hodgkins first sailed from New Zealand for Europe in 1901. Arriving in London in April of that year, Hodgkins joined Norman Garstin (1847 – 1926) on his summer sketching trips in France, spending 1901 in Caudebec and 1902 in Dinan.

It was during her time in Caudebec with Garstin that Hodgkins completed the present painting, which clearly shows the beginnings of Hodgkins’ interest in the French movement of Impressionism with its focus on naturalism and the observation of the effects of light on form. It is well documented that on her arrival in London in 1901, Hodgkins was disappointed with the majority of art that she saw being exhibited, with the exception of John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) and the Newlyn School of painters. Hodgkins was very appreciative of Sargent’s work, whose technique she exclaimed meant that, ‘You stand back and behold meaningless blobs shape themselves into the most perfect modelling and form.’

The present painting features an elderly woman knitting and shows clear traces of Hodgkins’ focus on the Impressionist approach to painting. The light streaming through the windows is seen to dissolve portions of the framing, while the costume of the woman, her hands and her knitting is translated through a flurry of brushstrokes that provide solidity and form, but not intricate detail. It is these techniques that strengthen and develop in her later paintings to characterise her unique approach to modernism.

Written by Jonathan Gooderham


Dunedin, N.Z. Otago Art Society Exhibition. 1901 (No. 228)

Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe. 2008


Collins & Buchanan, 'Frances Hodgkins on Display', Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, No. 5 (2000), p.32

Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2008), p. 3


Purchased by Alfred Charles Hanlon in 1901

His daughter Eileen Robertson, 1994

Her husband William Scott Robertson, 1968

His son Blair Scott Robertson, 1975

Collection. Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2008