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FRANCES HODGKINS ABROAD, 1901-1914
'Nervous in touch, elusive in colour, and strange in technique, it is the strongest contribution in art by a woman for some time ... Miss Hodgkins's future should be watched with interest.' (Evening Standard and St James's Gazette review of Hodgkins's Ryder Street exhibition, November, 1909)
Frances Hodgkins sailed from New Zealand on her first tour abroad in 1901. Arriving in London in April, she would spend most of her first trip on the continent with Norman Garstin on his summer sketching trips at Caudebec in 1901 and at Dinan in 1902. She had been contacted from Paris by her compatriot Dorothy K. Richmond on arrival in London and the two became inseparable sketching partners through 1901-02. She travelled to Italy in 1901-02 and to Tangier in 1902-03. From 1902 she sent works home to be exhibited in Wellington and began to show in London, with works exhibited at the Royal Academy and Fine Art Society in 1903. She toured Belgium and Holland from July-October 1903 before sailing for New Zealand in November.
After two years in New Zealand she returned to England in early 1906, visiting Venice and Chioggia in the spring and summer before joining Garstin again on his summer sketching course at St Valery-sur-Somme and stayed in France, travelling to the Côte d'Azur, before returning to England in February 1907. After a solo exhibition in London at Paterson's Gallery on Old Bond Street she travelled to Dordrecht and spent most of the remainder of the year and the first few months of 1908 in Holland. She was in England from July-November 1908 and returned to Paris in mid-November, her base for the next four years, with excursions to Montreuil-sur-Mer in the summer of 1909, Concarneau in the summers of 1910-11 and St Valery-sur-Somme in 1912. She took classes at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, the first woman to join the teaching staff there, and continued to exhibit regularly in London and Paris (at the Paris Salon in 1909, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, at the Société Internationale d'Aquarellistes in 1910, and at the Société Internationale de la Peinture à l'Eau in 1910-11).
Hodgkins sailed for the Antipodes in December 1912 and, after exhibiting in Australia and New Zealand through the year, left New Zealand for the last time in October 1913, sailing for Europe. After a spell in the Mediterranean working on Capri and travelling in Italy, she returned to Paris in May 1914 and joined a sketching class at Equihen and Concarneau in the summer, curtailed by the outbreak of war which saw her return to England in September. She took up residence at St Ives which became her base through the war years.
The following group of watercolours all appear to date to these early years of sketching trips on the continent, as she developed her tonal technique. Disappointed by much of the work she saw exhibited in London on arrival in 1901, she was nevertheless captivated by Sargent's technique ('you stand back and behold meaningless blobs shape themselves into the most perfect modelling and form') and by the work and principles of the Newlyn School, the French-inspired plein air naturalism that seemed to guide her working practise over these early years, and from which her modernism would emerge so naturally in the 1930s.
PROPERTY FROM A FRENCH COLLECTION