Review by TJ McNamara

Arts commentator and critic TJ McNamara reviewed Frances Hodgkins: A Singular Artist – exhibited at Jonathan Grant Gallery – in the Weekend Herald. 

Hodgkins comes home for intriguing survey

Frances Hodgkins, born in 1869 in Dunedin, gained considerable fame in Britain where she settled in 1913. Her work is in the Tate and other major galleries; public galleries here now have considerable collections although as late as 1949 the Art Gallery in Christchurch once refused a gift of a painting because it was too “modern”.

The excellent examples of her work gathered in Frances Hodgkins: A Singular Artist at the Jonathan Grant Galleries chart her progress to achieve the originality, vigour and charm that brought her work to prominence overseas.

The earliest painting in the show, Maori Girl in Blue (1899), is a sympathetic watercolour of a thoughtful subject. It is painted wet on wet, giving an effect of immediacy, reinforcing the excellent draughtsmanship of the characterisation.

A jump to 1933 shows the effect of her time spent in Europe. Her contact with Post-Impressionist French painting is apparent in Ibiza. It owes a lot to Dufy in its transparency and spontaneity. She is still using watercolour and the tones are richly blended into unity. Not even the sails of a windmill are allowed to break the lively feeling of the expression of a delighted emotional response to the scene.

Quite late in life she turned to oil paint and to gouache, where watercolour is thickened with white. This strengthened her forms and the effect can be seen in River Tone, Sommerset (1939) and the exceptionally rich Welsh Emblem (1942). They help complete an interesting survey.’

Frances Hodgkins
Maori Girl in Blue (1899)