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Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947)
Washerwomen, Brittany
Circa 1912?
watercolour and charcoal
370 x 376mm sight size
7-1956
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Bequeathed 1956 by Mr Percy Hodgkins, the artist's brother.
Percy Hodgkins bought both of the paintings that Frances exhibited at Wellington’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1917 – this work and Tunny Boats, Concarneau (page 83). Four years younger than Frances, Percy was sixteen when she was filling her sketch book with studies of ‘Phemie’ – the family’s maid-of-all-work – milking the cow, feeding poultry and carrying laundry. Eric McCormick has suggested that these early works showed ‘some realisation that “the beautiful” was to be snared not exclusively on the shores of Lake Wanaka or on the peaks of the Southern Alps but lay there for discovery at the stable door and in the washhouse.’16 Frances made many images of more spectacular landscapes and magnificent scenes, but she continually returned to women at their daily work. In this beautiful painting two Breton women seem literally to be submerged in the backbreaking task of pounding loads of washing at the river’s edge. Their kneeling forms with arms outstretched, the colours of their clothing and the shapes of their headdresses almost dissolve away in the watercolour paint which Frances has applied to wetted paper – but with masterly control of her medium she preserves these women and their task for posterity.

not on view

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