The Family After Dinner c.1910-14
Watercolour, 55 x 71 cm
Signed F Hodgkins lower right
In this watercolour, Hodgkins depicts a subject that she regularly painted at the turn of the twentieth century, a group of figures in a domestic setting. The technique used in this watercolour is typical of these early works, being constructed through a series of loose, fluid washes of colour. It is very similar in terms of style to works such as The Window Seat (Art Gallery of New South Wales), painted in 1907. It is most likely that The Family After Dinner was painted in the early 1910s.
The present watercolour depicts four figures in an interior complete with a pale green sofa, heavy drapes and a glowing lamp in the background. The soft focus and golden light of the painting indicates early evening, and the calm poses of the figures coupled with the muted palette add a romantic element. Hodgkins consciously contrasts the strong vertical brushstrokes in the curtains and sofa with the rounded curve of the back of the sofa.
In this painting, Hodgkins clearly communicates the ambience of the scene rather than specific details, such as the identity of the figures. Indeed, the figure by the lamp is very subtly intimated and is almost in complete shadow. The gentleman in the foreground bears a remarkable resemblance to Hodgkins’ friend and patron Moffat Lindner, President of the St Ives Art Club, whose Porthmeor Studios Hodgkins occupied during her 1914-1920 stay in St Ives. Hodgkins painted a portrait of Lindner with his wife and daughter in c.1916 in his Porthmeor Studio, so it is possible this scene captures the family together again at his Chy-an-Porth home. The gentleman faces away from us, absorbed in his reading, while a woman beside him extends her arms out holding a wool skein. Beside her sits another woman, her head bent in reading, while a younger woman opposite them is engrossed in her knitting, or rolling the wool from the skein into a ball.
The focus on the effects of sombre lighting clearly shows Hodgkins’ interest in the French Impressionists at this time and their concern with the effects of light. The present painting also shows Hodgkins’ interest in French Intimiste interiors by artists such as Edouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940), whose works she would have seen in Paris. Thus, the very pale greens and dashes of cream are set off against the warm browns and reds to create an intimate scene of allure and charm. A further element of poignancy is evident in the familial scene and is ‘enhanced by her exclusion from them.’
Written by Jonathan Gooderham
Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe. 2008
Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2008), p. 13
Private collection, Montfort-l’Amaury, France