Frances Hodgkins

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1869, d.1947


  • 1945
  • Oil on canvas
  • Purchased 1979
  • 825 x 950mm
  • 79/443

Frances Hodgkins was seventy-seven years old when she painted Zipp in 1945, nearing the end of her career and life. It is one of the last paintings she completed. With its semiabstract shapes and forms set against a despairingly dark background, Zipp highlights how Frances continued to push herself as an artist even through her later years.

Seemingly random objects emerge through the gloom; some distinguisable, others abstracted beyond recognition: belts, a zip, a shoe and some clothing. These personal items belonging to the artist serve not only as a still life, but also as a kind of self-portrait. Most telling is the way they are scattered and heaped in a rumpled pile, perhaps symbolising the disorder in her life at this time.

(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Brought to light, November 2009- 22 February 2011

    I can’t tell you the horror of the blackout and the effects on your nerves – the want of ventilation at night is very tiring – perhaps the nastiest part of it all. So wrote Frances Hodgkins to her brother William in March, 1940. The sombre tones seen in Zipp reflect the detrimental physical and psychological effects the Second World War had on her health; the subject, a still life of her clothing and personal effects, is a symbolic self-portrait and a metaphor for her experiences during the war.

    Ape to Zip, 13 May 2005 - 8 October 2006

    Frances Hodgkins was born in New Zealand and became famous for her paintings in Europe. During wartime in England, some of her things were stolen. She remembered those things by putting them into this wonderful painting. Can you find a zip, a belt, and some shoes …? Other things here might be harder to recognise.