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Record Image
Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Red Cockerel
oil on canvas
707 x 914 mm sight size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1957 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society
Nineteen twenty-four was not a good year. Frances was living in St Paul du Var, Provence, with very little money and felt ignored by the art establishment. She was not included in the huge British Empire exhibition which opened at Wembley 23 April. ‘I have been quite definitely snubbed out of showing at the Brit: Em[pire] Exhbn.'(1) She was very homesick and regularly spoke in her letters of trying to get back to New Zealand – where she would exhibit ‘no modern stuff at all – just good straightforward Water Colours'(2). In her plan, the sale of these would repay her brother Willie, since she hoped that he might advance her the cost of the journey out. But her heart was clearly with the ‘modern stuff’ as this picture shows. She was working in a cubist style, using flattened forms and abstract shapes, within the context of the traditional ‘vanitas’ painting – a meditation on the transience of all life. A sombre work, it shows her increasing facility with oil paint and may be the Nature morte that she showed with six other works at the 1924 Salon d’Automne in Paris.
Red Cockerel might not have found a welcome if she had sent it out to New Zealand in 1924, but while he was in London in 1957 Eric McCormick selected it for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery from the collection of Frances’s friend, painter Eardley Knollys. Its arrival was greeted with enthusiasm. A photograph appeared in The Otago Daily Times with a note that the Gallery now had seventeen works by Frances Hodgkins and that Red Cockerel ‘ was painted at a time when the artist had begun to receive world-wide acclaim for her genius, which showed itself in her mastery of colour and design’.(3)

1. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 22 February 1924, Gill, p 375
2. Letter to William Hodgkins, 12 April 1924, Gill, p 377
3. The Otago Daily Times, 17 September 1957

not on view

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