The Young Baker c. 1921
Pencil on paper
26 x 20 cm
Signed Frances Hodgkins lower right
John Leech Gallery, Auckland, Frances Hodgkins. Paintings, Gouaches & Drawings, 2010
Frances Hodgkins database (FH0716) www.completefranceshodgkins.com
From Frances Hodgkins to William Hodgkins; Martigues, 28 February 1921
“We draw in the cafes in the evening – such types – largely Spanish in certain quarters. Such beauty and bearing. We go to some of the humblest places. You come away feeling you have spent an evening in the company of princes. Sometimes a hot blooded wrangle. It’s a relief to get away from the robust and vigorous Anglo-Saxon type of the north and live for a spell among these happy & harmonious Southerners of rare beauty & grace”
After leaving New Zealand in 1901, the first group of monochromatic works that appear in Hodgkins’s oeuvre are related to Cassis, where she spent six weeks during the winter of 1920-21. Hodgkins’s drawings from this period were completed in black chalk and were of uniform size. Two examples of her chalk drawings are currently held in public galleries: Cassis c.1920 – 1930 in the Auckland City Art Gallery and Landscape in the South of France in the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.
Frances Hodgkins left England for France in 1920. On her arrival, she immersed herself in the local culture, enjoying the fine French food and wine. After a week of relaxation she moved south to the small town of Cassis, in the hope of meeting up with close friends, Cedric Morris and Lett Haines. Arriving in the small fishing port, Hodgkins discovered that they had already departed, but the magnificent amphitheatre created by the hills surrounding Cassis drew her in, and she decided to stay. By chance, Hodgkins met a fellow New Zealander, Jean Campbell, and joined her on her vineyard, Fontcreuse. There she enjoyed daily walks over the rugged hills of the region and sketched constantly as she went. This, Hodgkins realised, was Cézanne country – a challenge that she met in a series of black chalk drawings, which are notable for their boldness and strength of design – in what was for her, a new medium.
Hodgkins’s drawings of the 1920s express her assuredness in her own skill and reveal an element of experimentation in terms of both subject matter and form. Hodgkins intended her drawings to not be just picturesque examples of the local landscape and people, but to be autonomous artworks that would also serve as inspiration for larger paintings. They were undoubtedly popular and the present drawing, The Young Baker, bares a strikingly close resemblance to her work, Cassis Boy c.1921 (FH0718).
Hodgkins hoped to sell the set of chalk drawings in London, writing to her mother Rachel on the 4th of February 1921 to say that she was: “…sending off my Cassis set of drawings to Mr Frank Rutter to see if he can arrange to show them in London…”.
It appears that most of these drawings were not exhibited until 1926 when nine drawings were included in Hodgkins’ show of eighty works at the 2 Mount Street Gallery, Manchester between 4th and 30th November.