Artwork Description / Detail
Leicester Galleries, London, purchased by Ian Phillips Esq, 1945
Private collection, Nelson.
Private collection, U.S.A.
Roger Collins and Iain Buchanan, Frances Hodgkins on Display 1890 – 1950 (Hocken Library 2000) p. 84.
To A. J. McNeill Reid, 20th December 1934; from F.H., Highlands, Corfe Castle, Dorset
‘I was feeling very much under the weather both physically & otherwise but have
picked up wonderfully since coming here and am now doing quite good work under the spell of the place & general atmosphere of calm & simplicity . . .’
Frances Hodgkins first moved from London to Corfe Castle in 1934. Corfe Castle is situated on the Isle of Purbeck, in Dorset, and is a historic site known primarily for the ancient castle ruins that sit on top of a hill immediately behind the village. Hodgkins relocated to Corfe Castle in an attempt to take ‘refuge’ in the countryside and to reconnect with her friend from St Ives, the potter Amy Krauss. Hodgkins would return to the village regularly and in 1936 she set up a small studio, in a converted Wesleyan chapel in West Street.
Hodgkins eventually made Corfe Castle her permanent home in 1940 when she could no longer travel back and forth to Europe. She believed that Corfe was the place for quiet ones. Describing the Corfe Castle landscape as subject matter, Hodgkins wrote from Corfe Castle to Eardley Knollys in May 1945,My Muse has returned to me – I found her waiting for me on the doorstep faithful wench, which goes to show how futile it is to travel over mountains in search of material when it lies at your own pavement, for the seeing.
A selection of Hodgkins’s works was included in the British Council exhibition in Paris in 1945, Quelques Contemporains Anglais, to celebrate the liberation of France. Corfe Castle was not always idyllically peaceful. With the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945), England’s coastline was severely battered by enemy fire and nightly German air raids. Hodgkins was greatly affected by the stress of war conditions and the continual heavy military traffic through Corfe Castle to the coastal defences and army camps around the Isle of Purbeck and the highly secret radar establishment at Worth Matravers, eventually caused the roof of her studio to collapse. She wrote; the planes overhead bringing back wounded from Normandy have scared all art out me.
A key part of her work during this period was the continued influence of French art and the increase of a neoromantic tendency in her work. The present painting, Corfe Castle Village was inspired by the local landscape around her cottage and studio. Painted in gouache in predominantly greens and blues, with dashes of bright yellow, Hodgkins makes a play on that recurring theme in her late works: the still-life combined with a landscape view. Here however, she blends architectural features into the local landscape so that roofs of houses are seen just peeking out from the scrubby hillside terrain.
The central undulating hill accompanied by a wealth of vegetation that is mapped out in a variety of strokes, produces a painting that is quietly contemplative yet deeply arresting. Corfe Castle village is situated between two gaps in the ridges of the Purbeck hills. The present scene is painted from the Eastern ridge of the Purbeck Hills looking over houses in the Wareham road entrance to the village and across to the rounded edge of the scrub covered Western ridge. The scene of this painting remains virtually unchanged to this day.
Written by Jonathan Gooderham & Richard Wolfe