The well-known New Zealand expatriate artist Frances Hodgkins travelled to Ibiza in October 1932, remaining on the island until July 1933. These were high times for the artist, who relished living and painting in the island’s sharp light immensely. Hodgkins kept company with fellow New Zealand painters Maude Burge, Gwen Knight and May Smith, whom she fondly referred to as “my three friends”. At this time Hodgkins painted still-life subjects out in the landscape as opposed to indoors. Everyday objects were often arranged on a table, or sometimes directly on the ground, with the Ibiza landscape extending into the distance beyond. She commented at the time, “In this clear ivory light every common object looks important and significant … things appear in stark simplicity minus all detail – nothing corked up … or hidden as in the grey, or brown, light of the north.”
By 1937 Frances Hodgkins had established herself as a major artist in Britain. During this period she began using gouache, which became one of her favoured mediums in the final years of her career.
This work highlights the experimental quality that gouache offered her at this time. Using an almost calligraphic technique, the paint has been applied freely and expressively using a variety of brush marks.
Hodgkins was born in Dunedin and was initially trained by her father, part-time watercolourist William Matthew Hodgkins. In 1893 she took classes with G. P. Nerli, and in 1895/96 studied at the Dunedin School of Art. Hodgkins left to study at the London Polytechnic in 1901 and in 1903 she exhibited at the Royal Academy, becoming the first New Zealander to have the honour of being ‘hung on the line’. Living in Paris between 1908 and 1912, Hodgkins taught at the Académie Colarossi, where she was the first woman on staff. She eventually settled in England, where she exhibited with many art groups and galleries, including the Lefevre Galleries in London from 1932.