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Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Summer
Circa 1912
watercolour and charcoal
586 x 498 mm paper size
3-1913
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1913 by public subscription.
Frances Hodgkins valued this work highly – it was one of the more expensive in her Australian and New Zealand exhibitions. But at £60 in Melbourne it did not sell, nor when reduced to £42 in Sydney, so down it came again and was purchased for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery at £35. Almost a century later, her assessment of its quality has proved correct. Summer has been enjoyed by successive generations of Dunedin gallery-goers who must be grateful that no Australian fell in love with it – or could afford to buy it. She painted it in France, yet it somehow exudes the heat and brilliance of the perfect New Zealand summer – perhaps even memories of apricot blossom in Central Otago. Frances’s rapid brushstrokes whirl across the paper, brilliantly capturing scattered patches of intense sunlight which filter through the leaves and across the little group: a woman and a girl lost in admiration of the delicious, plump baby-ness of the baby – at this moment the still centre of their world.
Another great painter, Colin McCahon (1919–1987), raised in Dunedin, recalled that his childhood enjoyment of this painting contributed to his own commitment to art. ‘There was one painting in the Gallery I loved above all else, Frances Hodgkins’s Summer. It sang from the wall, warm and beautiful, beautiful faces beaming from summer blossoms. It was strong and kind and lovely.'(1)

1. Beginnings: New Zealand writers tell how they began writing, Oxford University Press, Wellington, 1980, p 103

not on view

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