Woman With Shopping Basket
Oil on canvas, 75 x 49.5 cm
Signed lower right
WH Lane & Co, Penzance, 15 Sep 1988
Purchased by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham from above, 1988
From Frances Hodgkins to Hannah Ritchie, 8th July 1924; Hotel Belle Vue Montreuil s-mer
“Agnes Drey settled down to work, hard at it, putting paint all over her self. She or I, or both, take the 3 terrier dogs out walks in the evening. Yesterday one killed a chicken, only a little one & she had to pay 4 frcs. Such a scene. Somehow I like her much better in France. She seems more natural & in her proper setting. She speaks easily & loves the people – they also like her.”
Agnes Drey was born in Charlton, Lancashire in 1890. She was the sister of Oscar Raymond Drey, an art and theatre critic who went on to marry artist Anne Estelle Rice. Anne’s sister, Eleanor Emily Rice became a good friend to Drey. In 1918 Anne Estelle Rice met the New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield in Cornwall and painted her portrait which is now held in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa collection.
Whilst in France in 1924, Drey joined Frances Hodgkins’ summer sketching classes at Montreuil-sur-Mer. She introduced Hodgkins to her brother Raymond and his wife Anne. Whilst attending an afternoon tea party at the Drey home in Withington, Manchester in 1926 Hodgkins met Lucy Wertheim and this introduction prompted a lifelong friendship. Drey painted a portrait of Hodgkins that was displayed in Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s exhibition Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys held in 2019. Hodgkins gifted Drey a painting titled St Paul du Var (FH0760, Private Collection) in 1924. Raymond Drey was also a supporter of Frances Hodgkins, purchasing two of her works painted in 1942; Dolaucothy Arms(FH1208) and Welsh Emblem (FH1222, Private Collection).
Drey’s first exhibition was in 1934 at the Back Road West Studios in Cornwall which consisted mostly of still lifes and portraits. She was a founding-member of the Penwith Society which was formed in 1949 and based in St Ives, Cornwall. The group included artists Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon and Ben Nicholson.
Drey worked in Studio 2 at Porthmeor Studios throughout the 1950s. The studio was located next door to Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, a British artist who later purchased the present work Woman with Shopping Basket in 1988. Barns-Graham (1912-2004) was part of the St Ives School of artists of the mid-20th century. Willie, as she was known, built up an astonishing collection of works from friends such as Terry Frost, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Roger and Rose Hilton, Bernard and Janet Leach, Denis Mitchell, Ben and Kate Nicholson, Breon O’Casey, Alfred Wallis and Agnes Drey.
Throughout her career Drey exhibited with the Women’s International Art Club, the Newlyn & St Ives Societies, Lanham’s Gallery and Castle Inn in St Ives. Drey lived in Cornwall permanently from the 1930s until her death in 1957. A memorial exhibition was held for her by the Penwith Gallery.
– Kaitlin Stewart