I feel pleasantly anchored. . . . I must look around for something fresh to which I can re-act -- touch and see . . . . Something is really happening at last -- and yet this, I feel, is only a half-way stage.
FRANCES HODGKINS, 19 OCTOBER 1930
Like ritual offerings of plenty Frances Hodgkins's still-life landscapes float pleasurable images of fecundity and delight before the eye. They form a persistent and intriguing strand in her artistic practice over the five or six years around the pivotal and prolific 1930: vases, urns, eggs, shells, berries, succulent melons, gourds and that especially favoured motif, the creamy-white arum lily, are set first on tables tilted, medieval fashion, towards the viewer, then on altar-like ottomans, or -- in a beautifully inspired gesture -- placed simply on the ground. The relationship of objects to setting continually shifts as the artist experiments with changes of focus and scale, the enchanting artifice of the whole affair lightly and wittily proclaimed by the use of a sprightly twist of drapery accompanying a table group here, twirling about a prop there or deftly whisked skywards to fall behind other arrangements in a gesture of mock drama.
Frances Hodgkins's experiments within this already inventive synthesis of genres continue in her later work alongside her various types of landscape and the more occasional figure subject, with the idea re-cast and transformed from 1937 on in the many works focusing on farm machinery and other agricultural implements in landscape settings.
Stylistically Hodgkins's still lifes, still-life landscapes and figure subjects of the 1930s and 1940s move through a succession of phases and demonstrate a continual sense of adventure in form, iconography and colour. A clear understanding of this has been complicated by considerable dating problems with many works from this period, but in general her work -- always retaining its highly individualistic colour and painterly qualities -- moves from responses to the lyrical naturalism and faux-naïveté associated with the Seven and Five Society, to 1920s New Classicism, to Surrealism, through to Neo-Romanticism, with constant and varied signs of her great admiration for the major artists of the French School like Matisse, Picasso and Dufy. There are also connections with specific British artists after the Seven and Five episode: with Paul Nash, with John Piper, and connections too with the