Artwork Description / Detail
Private collection, Montfort-l’Amaury, France
Auckland, N.Z. Jonathan Grant Gallery, Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe. 2008
Frances Hodgkins: Watercolours from Europe, Jonathan Grant Galleries (Auckland 2008), p. 11
Boys Fishing is most likely to have been completed by Frances Hodgkins during her stay in Holland between 1907-1908. At the turn of the twentieth century, Holland, like Concarneau in Brittany, remained a popular location among artists who praised its rusticated purity that was seen to be an oasis amid the oppressive nature of British and French industrialisation. The opportunity to paint figures in traditional dress was a further attraction and one that is seen in this painting. The scene features one of the young boys fishing off a bridge while his two friends watch closely. All three young boys are attired in caps and clogs, which references Hodgkins’ interest in the work of Stanhope Forbes (1857 – 1947) who often painted village scenes complete with similar picturesque detailing.
Hodgkins’ interest in Impressionism is demonstrated in this painting through the use of a subdued, sombre light that washes over the scene, blending and merging forms to produce an indeterminate foreground. The focus on the atmospheric quality of the scene works to unite this painting with the other works that Hodgkins’ completed in Holland, namely The Bridge (c.1907, Private Collection) and Dordrecht (c.1908, Dunedin Public Art Gallery). These three outdoor scenes feature small figure groups attired in traditional Dutch costume and are executed with a loose, fluid line and colder colours.
The inscription on the back of this painting “Miss Thorpe,” is thought to refer to Hodgkins’ pupil in Dordrecht, Teresa Thorpe, the ‘congenial and specially selected companion’ with whom Hodgkins travelled to Paris in November 1908.