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Record Image
Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947)
Red Sails
1906
watercolour
686 x 448 mm sight size
11-1956
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Bequeathed 1956 by Mr Percy Hodgkins, the artist's brother.
‘Chioggia is about 17 miles to the E. of Venice on the Adriatic & it is famous for its handsome women and its fishing fleet….Your poor daughter is not painting at all well or happily & she hates the sight of her brushes. I am wondering what I can take up instead to rest my weary painting nerves. A change of medium might do it. I fear it is too late to take to the stage or go in for dressmaking or good works….(1) On the strength of this large watercolour, which she almost certainly painted in June at Chioggia – whose famous fishing fleet had red and yellow sails – we must be grateful that her brushes won the day.
In setting the viewpoint very low and cropping the top of the mast, Frances seems to be making use of her camera as an aid for composition. She had bought the camera in London in March. ‘The young man who sold it [to] me told me that every artist of any standing had one, in fact one lady had her negatives enlarged (secretly) by them & then painted over them. Such moral laxity is appalling!’(2)
This painting was shown with six other works at the Otago Art Society in November 1906 under the title The Orange Sail, but it was expensive and did not sell. Frances was clearly upset by this when she wrote to her mother: ‘I am sorry none of you have liked my pictures. I didnt think you wld though of course it would have been nicer if you had.’(3) It appeared at the Canterbury Society of Arts the following May (reproduced in the catalogue) and then the work was seen again in Auckland a year later. In July 1908 Frances’s brother Percy bought the painting in Wellington and happily earned a reprieve for the Hodgkins family taste in pictures.

1. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 6 June 1906, Gill, p 189
2. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 31 March 1906, Gill, p 185
3. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, December 1906, Gill, p 196

not on view

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