Artist
Frances Hodgkins
British-based landscape and still life painter

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Frances Hodgkins
British-based landscape and still life painter
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Birth Date

April 28, 1869

Death Date

May 13, 1947

Arty Fact

dbresnahan's picture

Contributor

Frances Hodgkins was the quintessential starving artist.

Hodgkins grew up in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her father, William Mathew Hodgkins, was an amateur watercolor painter who ran all the hip art clubs in the area, which sort of gives you an idea of how unfortunate the art scene was back then.

After dear old Dad went bankrupt, Frances’s older sister Isabel started painting as a way of supporting the family (because apparently art was a fallback for people back then). After seeing his eldest's success, William told Frances she should probably get on board with the whole painting thing too. And get on board she did, “on board” the next ship to Europe, because New Zealand wouldn’t know good art if it bit New Zealand in the butt. Her words, not mine.

Over the next few years, Hodgkins traveled all across Europe, visiting Italy, France, Holland, and Morocco, studying art and dodging rent along the way. She never gained more than a meager income, despite getting exhibitions in France, England, Australia, and New Zealand, becoming the first woman to be an appointed instructor at the Académie Colarossi (a leading art school in Europe), and working as a textile designer in the early 1920s.

Hodgkins was quoted as saying: “I feel that if I had known what was before me, I should never have had the courage to begin.” That’s kind of a bummer, but also pretty accurate. She spent 56 years living more or less in poverty while she taught art punks and hitched rides across Europe. The traveling was nice, but Hodgkins thought the pressure to paint for money stifled her ability to experiment with style. The problem was compounded by World War I and II, as she was forced to move frequently. By the Second World War, she felt completely cut off from her inspiration as an artist: “The planes overhead bringing back wounded … have scared all art out of me—I simply cannot paint.”

When Hodgkins died, a very small funeral was held with just one floral wreath. It wasn’t until years later that her ashes were claimed—by the dude who would later write her biography. Yeah. That one creepy fan eventually blossomed into a national audience across Europe as well as Hodgkins’s home of New Zealand, where now they simply can’t stop raving about her. She could’ve used some of that support while she was still alive, I suspect, but hey, that’s the art world for you.

Sources

Sources

  1. Gooderham, Jonathan. “Frances Mary Hodgkins.” www.franceshodgkins.com. Accessed November 20, 2017. https://www.franceshodgkins.com/biography.
  2. Jackson, Penelope. “Frances Hodgkins, an extraordinary painter.” www.artgallery.org.nz. Accessed November 20, 2017. https://www.artgallery.org.nz/femme-du-monde-frances-hodgkins.
  3. McLintock, A. H.. “HODGKINS, Frances.” www.teara.govt.nz. Accessed November 20, 2017. https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/hodgkins-frances.