Frances Hodgkins

Earthly Pleasures

28 April 2007 - 30 September 2007

… so if you will sweetly come & occupy my Pavillion for as long as you like I shall be happy…. You will love my garden & the sacred citron tree in the centre of the courtyard – heavy with fruit – I eat my meals beneath its shade….

Frances Hodgkins to Hannah Ritchie c. 17 April 1929


Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) delighted in the good things in life and in the pleasures yielded up by the earth. Her letters are full of references to food – its abundance or scarcity, taste and appearance – and it is clear that, despite periods of privation, she took great pleasure in the sensory experiences offered by delicious food and beautiful flowers and gardens.

Her descriptions of meals are many and various. A trip to Paris in 1931 was memorable for “a very exciting show of Picasso – Braque – Matisse etc …” and for “a perfect dejeuner chez Prunier oysters, langoustine – fois gras – seated on high stools at a Marble Bar – of Heaven …”. At Ibiza in the Balearic Islands “we celebrated – for what I forget – on olives & Xeres wine at the least disreputable Bodegan …”, while at Corfe Castle in 1942 there are gooseberries, strawberries and a “wonderful cake” sent by her niece, “easily the worlds best cake in the Mrs Beeton class …”

In her early letters home from various parts of Europe and North Africa, between comments on exhibitions, artists, making and selling works, she writes of food markets brimming with melons, oranges and pomegranates, of flower markets and gardens, of “fragrant flowers irises & tulips & oleanders & roses”, of “sitting under a magnolia tree in the scorch of a blazing sun”.

Hodgkins lived through two world wars. During the second of these she seems to have subsisted largely on fruit and vegetables – revelling in delights such as raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries (“but no cream”), as well as “sprouts, roots etc from the garden, potatoes of course, wh. I cook in my own sweet way, good olive oil in place of bad butter – occasional eggs – a daily pint of milk ….”  Bad food and hunger were part of her experience at different times in her life; but it is her delight in earthly pleasures that comes through most strongly – and engagingly – in her letters and her art.


View a pdf of the exhibition labels click here

« Back to past exhibitions