Ludlow Castle c.1919

Watercolour on paper
23 x 23 cm
Signed lower right
Grosvenor Gallery, London October 1919, # 382 Hampstead Art Gallery, London 1920, # 29

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From Frances Hodgkins to Rachel Hodgkins, 8 June 1919, Charlton Arms – Ludlow – Salop

It is a great old place, grandly situated on a hill top, on the borders of Wales. In one of the towers of the Castle the two little Princes lived till wicked Uncle Richard took them away. I have a room facing on the river, a tiny attic of a place very hot, & I have to cook my own breakfast, tea & supper, on a spirit lamp, getting my midday meal at the Charlton Arms just across the river’.

The war years had been a challenging time professionally, financially and emotionally for Hodgkins. Seeking to re-establish the success she had achieved in France, Hodgkins arranged a sketching class in the market town of Ludlow, Shropshire in the summer of 1919. She spent two months teaching a group of six students in the small village, taking in different views of the town.

The present watercolour was exhibited at the International Society 26th Exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in October 1919 and at the Hampstead Gallery the following year. The painting depicts Dinham Bridge with the ruined medieval fortification standing on a promontory overlooking the River Teme. Her works during this period illustrate Hodgkins’ inclination to move away from the animated colour and interest in light of her earlier Impressionist landscapes towards a more structured composition and restricted colour effect. The paint is thinly washed over an initial drawing in a range of closely related hues.

A similar work Landscape (Ludlow Castle) 1919, currently in the collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, depicts the scene illustrated here from an alternate view. The bridge was a popular artist haunt and Hannah Ritchie, one of Hodgkins’ closest friends, also depicted this scene. Sketched two years earlier, Ritchie had sent her sketch, Bridge with Distant Landscape Seen Through One of the Arches (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), to Hodgkins for appraisal. In her response Hodgkins emphasised the importance of structure and the use of fresh colour in watercolour painting; ‘the older I grow in Water Colour I realise the great charm is freshness and lovely colour’. She adds that an artist should strive to ‘get the character and essential spirit of the place in the simplest manner’. Characteristics clearly achieved in her own composition.

Written by Jonathan Gooderham & Grace Alty
We are grateful to Dr Pamela Gerrish Nunn for her assistance in compiling the catalogue entries.