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Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947)
Threshing in the Cotswolds
Circa 1919
watercolour and charcoal
491 x 580 mm sight size
22-1955
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1955 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
The war was over at last and Frances spent part of the summer at the little village of Great Barrington, just west of Burford in the Cotswolds. She had always loved being in the country, observing farming life. In 1903 she wrote to her mother: ‘Its my idea of heaven to live on a farm & wake up at sunrise with cows & calves & sheep & pigs & ducks & geese & turkeys, all crying out to be fed – tho’ probably I should be more interested in painting them than feeding them …'(1) In this rural scene the animal sounds would be drowned out by the thudding and rattling of the steam traction engine, the rumbling of the leather belt and the racket of the threshing machine – but the chickens are unfazed, busily pecking up the fallen grains. This large watercolour work demonstrates Frances Hodgkins’s confidence with colour and her ability to communicate the details of the scene with great economy of form and line – the chickens are mere patches of white with red and yellow accents. It is a cheerful painting of a hot summer day with men working the engine, feeding the thresher, building the haystack and carrying away sacks of grain. Threshing or ‘thrashing’ – the older term for it – seems to have been a favourite subject since the list of Frances’s exhibited works shows several works with similar titles.(2) Threshing in the Cotswolds was originally owned by her brother, Willy Hodgkins, a banker whose working life was spent in surroundings very different from these.

1. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 4 August 1903, Gill, p 171
2. Roger Collins and Iain Buchanan, Frances Hodgkins on Display, ‘Bulletin of New Zealand Art History’, Special Series No 5, 2000, pp 52, 53 and 55

not on view

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