Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947)
Printed Textile (Block print on silk handkerchief)
block print on silk
253 x 275 mm support size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1971 by Mr Eardley Knollys.
Frances Hodgkins loved owning and wearing patterned fabrics and painted them with enjoyment and flair. The opportunity to design fabric herself came as a bolt from the blue in May 1925. She was staying with Hannah Ritchie and Jane Saunders in Manchester when they invited the chairman of the Calico Printers’ Association, Forrest Hewit, to see Frances’s work at their flat. He was impressed and after an interview Frances was offered a six months’ trial position as a fabric designer on a salary of £500 a year. She accepted the job immediately and wrote to her mother: ‘I can hardly believe that the terror of these past distracted years has passed & that life has eased for me’.(1) She enjoyed a trip at the firm’s expense to attend the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, but was disappointed in the British section which ‘quite failed to express itself in modern terms’; the French section, by comparison, was ‘beautiful & ingenious & tasteful to the nth. degree’.(2) And the discipline and demands of this new work were not troublefree. Eighteen months later she wrote that her eyes were causing trouble since ‘designing in this foggy dark climate is fatal to them’.(3) After her big Manchester exhibition proved a success she announced that she would set up a studio and offer day and evening painting classes in the New Year. ‘I am doing all this in order that I may escape the tedium of textiles – it is hard work but it comes easier to me than the mechanical designing & monotonous life of a designer.'(4) On this handkerchief she gives a colourful, bird’s-eye view of her ideal rural scene: pigs, cows, horses, dogs and chickens; orchards; duck ponds all around, happy farming folk and a creeper arching over the gateway into the courtyard of the farm buildings. By June 1927 she would be back in France, painting again. The handkerchief was given to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery by Frances’s friend, Eardley Knollys.
1. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 20 June 1925, Gill, p 390 2. Letter to Isabel Field, 29 August 1925, Gill, p 391 3. Letter to Isabel Field, 16 October 1926, Gill, p 396 4. Letter to Isabel Field, 3 December 1926, Gill, p 396