|ARTIST:||Frances Mary Hodgkins|
|DATES:||New Zealand 1869 - 1947|
|TITLE:||River Tone, Somerset|
|SIZE:||53.5 x 37.5 cm|
Signed lower left, c. 1937
Provenance: The Lefevere Galleries, Oct. 1937, No. 60; Leicester Galleries, Oct. 1941, No. 107, purchased by Mrs B C Fitzgerald
River Tone, Somerset c. 1939
Watercolour and gouache 53.5 x 37.5 cm
Signed Frances Hodgkins lower left
Leicester Galleries, purchased by Mrs B C Fitzgerald, 1941
Private collection, Auckland
London: Leicester Galleries, Paintings & Watercolours Oct. 1941, No. 107 (purchased by Mrs B C Fitzgerald)
Roger Collins and Iain Buchanan, Frances Hodgkins on Display 1890 – 1950 (Auckland, 2000), p. 81.
Arthur R. Howell, Frances Hodgkins: Four Vital Years (London, 1951), p. 130.
The Croft, Bradford-on-Tone, Taunton, Somerset, 26th May 1940
‘I have moved over here to the Croft from Corfe Castle not because it is any safer. No place is safe but it is rather more away from it all than on the S. coast where the coastal gunfire rattled my big studio windows – very worrying. Geoffrey gave me the use of the Croft for the summer & I shall stay here so long as the Gov: doesn’t fill it up with evacuees . . . I have dispensed with the Housekeeper & am doing my own work & cooking in a sort of a fashion . . .’
In the summer of 1934 Frances Hodgkins moved to ‘The Croft’ at Bradford-on-Tone in Somerset to look after Geoffery Gorer’s cottage, while he was away in America working for the Rockerfellers.
Hodgkins returned to the cottage in the summer of 1939 to house sit for Gorer and to keep it warm and human. Hodgkins had this time, however, another reason for staying there, as she wanted to regain her failing health. Hodgkins made the cottage her home during the turbulent war years in a bid to escape the rapid coastal gunfire that had terrorised her on a nightly basis at her previous residence of Corfe Castle. It was during this second visit to ‘The Croft’ that Hodgkins painted the current work, River Tone, Somerset in around 1939.
Hodgkins painted the River Tone on numerous occasions and it appears in works such as The Croft House, Bradford on Tone, Taunton, Somerset of 1946, and Cherry Tree at the Croft, Bradford on Tone, Taunton, which was also painted in 1946. The latter work is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa. As with many works from this period, these three paintings are distinguished by the adept application of gouache.
Gouache is applied in a manner very similar to that of watercolour. The medium is inherently opaque and fast drying. As a result it is fraught with painterly risk as the artist must apply the pigment fluidly and quickly as there is little opportunity for alteration and none for reworking. The fluid brushstrokes and curving arcs of light are clearly visible in River Tone, Somerset. It is evident that Hodgkins worked quickly, dexterously and with great care as she applied the heavy browns, the opaque blues and the light greens that decorate the picture plane. Itis Hodgkins’s success in capturing the subtleties of colour and form in this manner that ultimately led to her
inclusion in the Biennale di Venezia, as a representative of Britain in 1940.
Hodgkins’s works from the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s demonstrate her mastery of “that fertile gap between representation and abstraction.” Her work during this period is highly varied and diverse as she reworked certainviews and landscapes in order to explore all compositional possibilities; deftly transcribing structural realities through her own highly personalised, idiosyncratic vision.
It is Hodgkins’s perspicacious awareness of colour, form and artistic precedents that cast her art into the realm of the virtuoso. Therefore, her works are considered to be some of the most important in the context of British and New Zealand art of this period.
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