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Record Image
Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Fishing Boats
Circa 1911
watercolour on paper
450 x 533 mm sight size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1913 by public subscription.
Frances spent two summers in Concarneau, a famous Breton fishing port, but few of her letters from this time have survived. She was no doubt attracted by the atmospheric charms of Brittany, as many other artists have been: ‘the unusual quality of the light, the restless sea assaulting the cliffs, or the rapidly changing spectacle of the sky. Most days an invisible vapour in the air diffuses the light and softens the colours of fields, flowers and sails. Often, too, a fog closes in on the coast and the whole world turns a tender blue-grey. The outlines blur and only gentle phantoms of rocks and houses remain; day loses itself in night – no-one can say when. On clear days the sunsets are spectacles of violent and stunning changes in the cloud formations.'(1)
A photograph Frances sent home in August 1910 shows her with her easel set up right on the edge of the pier looking across to the crowded masts and sails of the fishing fleet. Concarneau was once famous for its blue-netted sardine fleet, but as the sardine shoals disappeared in the early twentieth century it became Europe’s first tuna fishing port and tunny boats appear in both these watercolours. The town offered many of the subjects that Frances loved to paint – boats, water, sails, medieval buildings and friendly people in colourful costume – as well as good food and reasonable accommodation. In July 1910 she moved from the hotel to a room with an elderly lady who had a crow, parrots and cats – always a favourite with Frances – and a room which she had let to artists for the past twenty years. ‘I eat at a little café where I get large platefuls of soup & sardines & crabs & veal & bifsteaks very raw & red & nearly always green peas stewed with onions & lots of sugar which taste very much better than they sound – all washed down with copious quantities of red wine & very sour cider.'(2)

1. La Belle FRANCE: A gourmet’s guide to the French Provinces , by the editors of Réalités, New York, 1964, p 123
2. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 28 July 1910, Gill, p 254

not on view

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