Frances Hodgkins

The Water Mill, 1943

Gouache, 50 x 38.5 cm
Signed Frances Hodgkins lower left & dated 1943

To Duncan Macdonald, 22 May 1943. Studio, Corfe Castle, Dorset.

‘I need a little more time to finish the Gouaches I have for you – April-May months in spite of the idyllic weather conditions have been distracting & dithering beyond works . . .

Towards the end of 1942, Frances Hodgkins retreated to her studio at Corfe Castle near Wareham in Dorset to complete a series of works that were due for exhibition with the Lefevre Gallery, London. It is during this time that Hodgkins was selected to be included in the Penguin Modern Painters series written by Myfanwy Evans and edited by Sir Kenneth Clark. Hodgkins was delighted by this prospect and wrote; 'As far as pictures can be described no one could do it better'. The book was delayed by the war, but was eventually published in 1948.

On the 18th of January 1943 Frances Hodgkins sent a ‘roll’ of her most recent gouache paintings to A. J. McNeill Reid of Lefevre Gallery, London. Reid had arranged for Hodgkins’ works to be exhibited the previous November, but Hodgkins was unable to make the deadline even though she planned to create works 'mainly in gouache, 2 sizes – uniform sizes as much as possible'. The delay in the production of her works could be attributed to the fact that her studio roof collapsed in June 1942 and was not repaired until later that year. She did, however, eventually complete nine gouaches, which she sent to Reid on the 18th of January. A further six gouaches were sent on the 21st February and she instructed Reid to put together a 'small, compact show of 15 gouaches that she hoped would be contemporary & recent & fresh'.

One of the works painted during her time at the studio at Corfe Castle was The Water Mill in 1943. This work depicts Hodgkins’ ability to produce a certain sense of ambiguity in her work where objects in the fore, middle and background appear to co-exist on a single plane. The dominant form of the mill is given a position of authority in the composition, but it does not dominate the entire arrangement. Instead it is harmoniously integrated into the lush vegetation of the surrounding landscape. The fluidity of Hodgkins’ brushwork, which is characteristic of her later work, is evident in this piece, thanks in large part to the choice of medium: gouache. The use of vivid yellow highlights, electric blues and vibrant greens contrast with the sombre planes of soft greys and blues and allow for both a sense of dynamism and for one of controlled calm.

Written by Grace Alty & Jonatrhan Gooderham
Edited by Jemma Field


London, U.K. The Lefevre Galleries, Gouaches; by Frances Hodgkins. March - April 1943

Manchester, U.K. City of Manchester Art Gallery, Pictures by Frances Hodgkins. August - September 1947 (No. 34)

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


Arthur R. Howell, Frances Hodgkins: Four Vital Years (London, 1951), p. 110 (listing Jane Saunders as the owner); No.5, p.122 & No.34, p.127.

Roger Collins and Iain Buchanan, Frances Hodgkins on Display 1890 – 1950 (Auckland, 2000), pp. 82, 91.

Frances Hodgkins: The Expatriate Years, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2012), p. 21


Collection: Miss (Dorothy) Jane Saunders UK. Thence by descent

Original hand written label attached verso: Water Mill by Frances Hodgkins lent by Jane Saunders, 12 Victoria Road.

Fallowfield, MCc. Original exhibition label attached verso: 34. City of Manchester Art Gallery, 15167.