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Record Image
Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Breton Woman and Child
1923
gouache on cardboard
350 x 328 mm sight size
22-1970
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1970 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
Frances Hodgkins seems here to be acknowledging Van Gogh. The woman’s pose and clothing are reminiscent of his famous work, La Berceuse (Woman rocking a cradle), painted at Arles in 1889, and written in pencil on the back of Frances’s painting is an alternative title: Breton Mother and Babe. She has reduced the image to a series of bold shapes, with just three small areas of pattern and so details are unclear, but perhaps the child in the high chair has been told to turn away so as not to wake the baby resting on the mother’s lap swaddled in the red shawl, and the oval form beside her may be a wicker cradle.
In November 1923 Frances was in St Paul du Var, in Provence, not in Brittany, and feeling despondent about her exhibition at the Little Art Rooms in London’s Duke Street. She had sold five works but the cost of framing and the dealer’s commission had swallowed up most of the money. She wrote to friends: ‘I was at a disadvantage – in a poky gallery & overshadowed by the Van Gogh show’. (This was the exhibition at the Leicester Galleries which caused a sensation in the London art world.) ‘The Morning Post grades me as a diciple [sic] of Van Gogh – which is manifestly absurd – I have too much technique of my own to cope with without taking on anothers. What I do share with him is poverty and a touch of ecstasy – I do hope you will see the V. Goghs & how they will affect you…'(1)

1. Letter to Hannah Ritchie and Jane Saunders, c. 20 December 1920, Gill, p 373

not on view

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