Frances Hodgkins

Preparing food at a Maori Village, Rotorua, 1905

Watercolour, 26.5 x 22 cm
Signed & dated 1905

Whilst Frances Hodgkins was living overseas, she often 'lamented' that not enough 'Maori studies' had been brought back to Europe with her, as she felt that the subject matter had caught on, and the public had taken a general interest in the life and culture of the Maori People. In many of the letters addressed to her mother, she said 'that when I arrive back in New Zealand I will begin to collect some 'genuine native studies'.

Preparing food at a Maori Village, Rotorua is dated 1905, an uncertain year for Hodgkins. Having just returned to New Zealand, she found it difficult to settle as her engagement to the American T.W Wilby had been broken off that year and her planned trip back to Europe delayed. So in June 1905, with the company of her friend Dorothy Kate Richmond, she took off for a long 'sketching holiday' in Rotorua. They stayed at The Lake House which gave them a closer insight into how the Maori lived. From there she reported to her mother 'we have managed to get two models already and have spent a busy day.' She wrote with a note of wry self-mockery how she hoped to renew her youth in the hotel's hot pools. Hodgkins was still in Rotorua during July when she received news that her work had been hung in The Royal Academy, London.

Her watercolour Head of a Maori girl was also executed during this trip to Rotorua in 1905, but very few other works with Maori as subject have actually been recorded.

The present painting, Preparing food at a Maori Village, Rotorua, is a rare, finished watercolour and is notable as it indicates her strong interest in Maori culture. The composition is much more elaborate and the work more resolved than her earlier Maori sketches that focus on women and children, and implies that although Hodgkins was an outsider, she was also an astute observer with an obvious empathy for the traditional Maori way of life.


Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery. May 2003