Haven’t heard of Frances Hodgkins? You have just over two weeks left to make your way to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki before the Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys exhibition comes to a close on the first of September.
Frances Mary Hodgkins (28 April 1869 - 13 May 1947) was an artist and textile designer born in New Zealand, who over the course of six decades painted herself into the list of great and influential British modernists. An independent, free spirit who lived a nomadic life, Hodgkins traveled to and worked in countless places including France, Italy, Morocco, Ibiza, and England.
In each locale where she worked, Hodgkins managed to not only capture the essence of the environment and people, but also to transform them into a timeless statement - a visual articulation of something bigger. Look at her work, and take in all of it: the “witchery” she experienced in old continental towns like Marseille; the “fairy enchantment” of Venice that she wrote about in her letters; the lush watercolour studies she made of the markets of France/Morocco… Travel accounts on Instagram just can’t compare.
Recognition of Hodgkins’ visionary style came later in life, with several exhibitions at Lefevre Gallery (where artists like Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, Rene Magritte, and Francis Bacon exhibited their work), and 26 of her paintings being selected for the 1940 Venice Biennale. However, for several periods of her life, Hodgkins lived in difficult circumstances: living in a room above a vermin-infested basement in Cornwall; working in wartime when she was not permitted to work outdoors; trying to sell art in a time when very few could pay for it; and having to work a job that meant she didn’t have time for her own creative pursuits.
Despite these numerous hardships, Frances Hodgkins was a driven artist who remained forever on the move. Though it took longer for New Zealand to recognise her talent, Hodgkins established herself as a leading figure among British artists. Of Hodgkins’ work in her incredibly successful solo exhibition at Lefevre Gallery in October 1937, Geoffrey Gorer likened Hodgkins to Emily Brontë and Jane Austen, writing that Hodgkins “... has a contribution to make to the world which no man could provide”.
For information about the exhibition:
If you’re interested in learning more about the life of Frances Hodgkins: