Still life: self-portrait by Frances Hodgkins

Still life: self-portrait by Frances Hodgkins

Still life: self-portrait, about 1935, by Frances Hodgkins.

Frances Hodgkins (1869–1947) is often regarded as New Zealand’s most significant expatriate modernist painter of the 20th century. The daughter of William Mathew Hodgkins (himself an artist), she was born in Dunedin but spent most of her artistic career in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Hodgkins’ early work has been described as influenced by ‘impressionistic concerns of evoking light, colour and atmosphere.’ In her formative years she tended to focus on familiar and domestic settings, working mainly in portraiture. From the late 1930s she began to explore new approaches in her use of iconography, colour, composition and style.

Of particular note are her still life paintings from this period. The spatial ambiguity arising from the placement of objects results in semi-abstracted works characterised by sharp, floating forms that are held together with washes of colour.

Still life: self-portrait is a decorative arrangement of the artist’s posessions: her beret, scarf, shoes and bag. Hodgkins avoids using her own features and instead integrates objects into a flattened abstract formula.

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