1869 – 1947
Pioneering artist who took New Zealand art to the world
While landscapes and still life were painter Frances Hodgkins' main subjects, she lived during a time of unprecedented social change which was reflected in art of the time. Hodgkins, who spent most of her working life in the United Kingdom, was well aware of and influenced by the many artistic schools and styles which appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Her work was varied, frequently abstract and often boldly coloured, earning her a reputation as one of Britain's great modernists. Her father, William Matthew Hodgkins, a lawyer and amateur painter, was also an art world pioneer.
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He founded New Zealand's first public art gallery, in Dunedin, and wrote extensively about our art. He encouraged his daughters, Frances and Isabel, to paint and both pursued it as a vocation.
In 1895, Hodgkins won the New Zealand Academy of Arts prize for painting from life.
A year later, she was teaching art and saving to travel to the United Kingdom where she enrolled in art school in London then travelled to France, the Netherlands, Italy and Morocco. In 1903, Hodgkins' watercolour Fatima became the first work by a New Zealander to be hung "on the line" at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
She returned briefly to New Zealand but was soon back in the UK, continuing to paint, hold solo shows and teach art; she was the first woman to be appointed instructor at the Colarossi Academy in Paris. Hodgkins spent World War I in Britain and, at 60, joined London's Seven and Five Society, a collective of painters and sculptors including emerging artists.
In 1939, Hodgkins was invited to represent Britain at the 1940 Venice Biennale, but wartime travel restrictions put paid to that.
Hodgkins was working until her death in Dorset in 1947. The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship, established in 1962 at the University of Otago in Dunedin, is named after her.