From Frances Hodgkins to Will Field, 30 March 1918, Wharf Studio, St Ives
‘The other day 3 nice girls, all from N.Z., blew in to the Studio – Miss Denniston of Peel Forest, Barker ditto & Beatrice Wood from Chch, a bright fair haired girl with a fluffy dog in her arms. She wanted me to paint her a sketch of herself for her Dad – Wiliam Wood – which I did! … She is a masterful young person – of the nice sort, & I would like to adopt her’.
Beatrice Ann Seddon (née Wood) (1889-1987) was born in Christchurch on July 28th 1889, the third child of William Wood and Mary Theresa Loughnan. Seddon was educated at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, attended a finishing school in England and upon returning to Christchurch attended art school under the tutelage of Sydney Lough Thompson and Margaret Stoddart. She went to London at the outbreak of war where she served as a volunteer Red Cross ambulance driver with the Aotearoa Club at Codford on Salisbury Plain.
Having contracted measles at Codford, Seddon went to St. Ives to recuperate, where she met and befriended Frances Hodgkins. While in St Ives, Hodgkins painted a portrait of Seddon (commissioned by her), titled Portrait of Miss Beatrice Wood, 1918.
Seddon joined Hodgkins’painting classes at Porlock, Somerset and the following summer she organised a class for Hodgkins at Great Barrington in the Cotswolds. Frances wrote of the classes to her mother;
‘ … did I tell you that Bee Wood is working up a class of 6 or 7 at a small village in Oxfordshire & that I have promised to go on there on August 4th & give them lessons till the end of September’.
Like Hodgkins, Seddon dedicated herself to the medium of watercolour. Haystacks and Poppies, The Cotswolds clearly illustrates Hodgkins’ influence on her works. Made under Hodgkins’ tutelage in the summer of 1919, when a handful of keen students gathered in Great Barrington, eschewing the village’s obvious motifs of the old church, historic Fox Inn and picturesque stone houses, in favour of the beautiful Cotswold en plein air landscape.
In Haystacks and Poppies Seddon has achieved a pretty yet fresh example of the typically idyllic rural view popular in Britain (and New Zealand) since the mid 19th century. Her rapid touches of pigment in the foreground to indicate the eponymous flowers, contrasting effectively with the broad washes of the sky, show her to be no ordinary amateur, and she remained capable of this effortless charm over the years.
In 1921, Seddon married a son of the former New Zealand Prime Minister Richard Seddon. A frequent exhibitor throughout New Zealand, she was a popular artist and sales of her watercolour landscapes and still lifes supported her family through the depression years. She became well known as an artist and in 1971 she travelled to Norfolk, England to view the exhibition Flower Paintings of the World, where one of her own flower studies had been selected by the National Art Gallery to represent New Zealand.