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Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Flowers and a Cat
1941
Gouache on paper
305 x 410 mm sight size
231-1982
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1982 by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
‘My dearest Willie, The jolly yellow gloves & blue scarf have reached me safely in perfect order & I love them & thank you very much for sending them they are as welcome as early daffodils, & made me jump like the lambs outside in the snowy fields at the first sign of spring you couldn’t have sent me anything more cheery, warm and daring to help me thro’ this zero hour now upon us – England is reeling under the staggering onslaught of Sunday night’s raids on the City – news is just coming through of the destruction and the heroism of the people … The lovely Guildhall has gone beyond recall. Memory goes back a long way, to the day 40 years ago when I was taken by dear old Mr Spence to see Gog & Magog …'(1) Despite the intense anxieties of wartime – or as an escape from them – Frances Hodgkins could make a work which sings with delight in the beauty of daffodils bursting out of a vase, the bright patterning of a table cloth and the calm inscrutability of a beloved cat.
Flowers and Cat was given to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 1982 by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer, who were among the Gallery's most significant and generous benefactors, and whose gifts, through their scope and quality, transformed the stature of the collection. The 1982 gift comprised 172 works: Japanese prints, old master prints and paintings, drawings, watercolours, several Russian icons, and an assortment of paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth century. The paintings included two wings from a portable altar by Jacopo del Casentino (fl c. 1315–1349), in addition to Claude Lorrain's painting Hagar and the Angel, Claude Monet's La Débâcle and this charming work by Hodgkins. In explanation of the gifts Esmond de Beer said: 'My sisters and I have always thought of Dunedin as our "home", our essential background, and have wanted to do what we could towards the furtherance of its learning and culture.'(2)

1. Letter to William Hodgkins, 31 December 1940, Alexander Turnbull Library. Gog and Magog were wooden statues of two giants, guardians of the City of London, carved in 1708 by Captain Richard Saunders, displayed at the Guildhall, and destroyed in the devastating bombing raids of Sunday 29 December 1940.
2. Letter E. S. de Beer to Frank Dickinson 7/2/1982, DPAG Archives, 11 30/8 de Beer Gift file.

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