Frances Hodgkins

Spanish Landscape c.1935

Watercolour, 37 x 48.5 cm
Signed lower right
Inscribed No. 12 Spanish Landscape

To Rée Gorer, 7 December 1935. Tossa de Mar, Gerona, Spain.

My Dearest Rée

It seems years since I came to Spain or, since I corresponded with my friends …

When I first came the country side did not appeal to me & I collected a lot of notes & sketches, casually, without bothering much about what might come through – it is only this last 6 weeks I have settled down to serious work ...

There is plenty of material here to paint. I am working up courage to start on figures – The life of the village is rich & dramatic. The little shops at night, enchanting like Dutch interiors gone Spanish – and the gilded altars in the village churches, vulgar & gaudy, but in the dim light, like a Rembrandt – one could go on, “likening” things for a long time –

With financial aid from Dorothy Selby and Rée Gorer, Frances Hodgkins left England for Tossa de Mar, Spain in September 1935. The quaint Catalonian village, situated half way between the city of Barcelona and the French border, instantly appealed to Hodgkins with its medieval architecture and Mediterranean climate. Immersing herself in the local culture, Hodgkins enjoyed the village atmosphere taking time to paint both indoor and en plein air. In a letter to Dorothy Selby (November 1935) she writes:

I paint during the morning – dividing my time inside & outside the Studio – this is the very charming part of a place like Tossa. So small & simple one can step into the old streets and have a look round – make a quick sketch & back to the Studio – repeating this little stunt perhaps 2-3 times during the morning – no fatigue – no complications –

Hodgkins spent a period of six months living and painting in Tossa de Mar. She sent a parcel containing 2 watercolours as a gift to her friend Rée Gorer & her son Geoffrey in December 1935. A further 9 gouache paintings were sent in February 1936 to Duncan Macdonald for exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery, London. Hodgkins had great hopes for these works, writing to Duncan Macdonald (February 1936):

You will see that I have put a large amount of Frances Hodgkins into them, even into the joyless marrows, and I do hope that you will not say this woman’s work is not worth a penny a day to me, I am sure you will realize that I have had to adapt myself to local conditions & do the best I can.

The illustrated work, Spanish Landscape, is an excellent example of the influence of the Catalonian region on Hodgkins’ work. Painted en plein air, Hodgkins captured the regions striking landscape with swift brushstrokes and vivid use of colour. Her fluidity of line is evident in the composition as she sketched the bare forms of the scene before her; capturing the cresting peak of the mountains and the dry riverbed creeping through this idyllic scene. Swathes of bright pink, purple and green washes of watercolour are added in a bold, uncompromising hand. The work has a sense of immediacy about it. The quick application of paint and the bold use of gesture single this painting out as a fine example of the artist’s working method. Painting out of doors, capturing the scene in front of her in a bold impressionistic style, Hodgkins explores her own take on British Modernism, cementing her status as one of the countries leading contemporary artists of that period.


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


Private Collection, U.K.

Bonhams, London July 2002