Frances Hodgkins: Paintings and Drawings

By Iain Buchanan; Michael Dunn et al. | Go to book overview
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Friends say my work is much stronger now than ever -- I feel it is -- perhaps the war has vitalised & fortified -- who knows.



It is quite significant that when Frances Hodgkins returned to Europe she chose France rather than England. France had always held a special importance for her -- besides being the centre of the most advanced developments in painting, the French countryside was a constant source of subjects and inspiration. She had spent the last four years based in Paris and clearly intended to resume her life of teaching and exhibiting. The outbreak of war in August 1914 ended that dream. Her pupils, on whom she depended for financial support, returned to England and shortly afterwards she joined them. By the end of the year she was living at St Ives in Cornwall, where she was to remain apart from brief periods in London. For Hodgkins, after working in France since 1908, the return to England meant a renewed involvement with British painting and all the restrictions it imposed. The wartime artistic situation was succinctly defined by the painter Wyndham Lewis, who wrote in 1915: 'The English have never been so insular and "English" as at the present moment.' 1 Frances Hodgkins was equally susceptible to this influence and by the end of the war her earlier French manner had been replaced by one based on an English approach to subject and treatment.

Hodgkins knew Cornwall well and had already spent part of the summer of 1902 in Penzance, working in close contact with her former teacher Norman Garstin. Cornwall, and in particular Newlyn, had been established as an artistic centre in the 1880s under the influence of French art and in conscious imitation of Brittany, where many Newlyn painters such as Stanhope Forbes and Norman Garstin continued to hold classes during the summer months. 2 Like Brittany, the Cornish countryside offered picturesque local subjects drawn from the customs of the villagers and fishermen, as well as attractive settings for plein air landscape painting. Garstin himself had praised the variety of scenery, ranging from rocky coves to moorland farms, in a 1909 article on "'West Cornwall as a Sketching Ground'". 3

At first Frances Hodgkins renewed her friendships and was associated with Norman


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