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Hodgkins, Frances Mary (New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947), Artist
Still Life with Fruit Dishes
Circa 1937
oil on canvas laid on hardboard
640 x 528 sight size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1949 by a group of anonymous donors.
Here are some of Frances Hodgkins’s favourite things – beautifully shaped ceramics, arum lilies, grapes, apples and cut melons – all arranged against a tipped-up crumpled cloth. On her second European journey Frances sent her mother this description of the Avignon market: ‘It really seems as though it were the fountain head of all fruits of the earth so rich is the supply in the market: melons seem to gush out of the ground & lie in heaped up piles of ripeness & grapes in riotous Bacchanalian profusion make you giddy as the wine they are destined for – Oh I wish instead of writing these tasteless words about them I could send instead an argosy laden with these lush fruits …'(1) Four decades later when this grape- and melon-laden painting arrived in Dunedin, a group of anonymous donors decided that it should stay – and generously presented it to the Art Gallery. The work was one of six by Frances Hodgkins exhibited here by the British Council two years after her death, and has become a jewel in the crown of the Gallery’s Hodgkins collection. In May 1955, when Still Life with Fruit Dishes was ‘Picture of the Month’ in The Otago Daily Times, Tom Esplin wrote: ‘There is in the work something of Nature’s structure, of life’s hidden rhythms, the source of all visual aesthetic enjoyment in its highest and most compelling form…. Dunedin Art Gallery owns five paintings. Enough, perhaps, to form the nucleus of a Frances Hodgkins room here in the Art Gallery: a fitting tribute from her birthplace to one of its greatest daughters.'(2)

1. Letter to Rachel Hodgkins, 15 September 1906, Gill, pp 193-194
2. The Otago Daily Times, 8 May 1955

on view in the exhibition

Hurahia ana kā Whetū : Unveiling the Stars
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