Lace Collars and Calico

Frances Hodgkins

25 April 2015 - 16 August 2015

Frances Hodgkins’ art and letters show that she was a keen observer of textiles – their colours, textures and patterns – and of other women’s clothes. She frequently mixed patterns in the outfits she wore and in some of her portraits the juxtaposition of very different fabrics is a distinctive feature of the work. Curated by former Gallery Director Priscilla Pitts, Lace Collars and Calico showcases and celebrates this life-long interest in fabrics and dress by bringing together works from various collections including Auckland Art Gallery, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Hocken Collections and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

All her life Frances Hodgkins was intrigued by beautiful and interesting clothes, be they the traditional foreign dress she encountered on her many visits to the Continent and Morocco or the outfits worn by friends and acquaintances.  Her letters are filled with references to and frequently detailed descriptions of clothing.  Of greater importance, however, is the way in which her representation of the colour, drape, texture and patterning of garments help to orchestrate and energise her figure paintings.  Her response to what she sees evolves significantly over the span of her career, becoming ever more individual and distinctive.  

Hodgkins’ large drawing Seated Woman (almost certainly a portrait of the painter Gladys Hynes) is a superb example of her ability to manipulate a potentially confusing variety of components into a dynamic, unified image. She revels in the boldly figured shawl and the elaborately patterned dress with its large bow to one side and godets at the hem, as well as the sitter’s delicately ornamented cloche hat, long earrings and necklace. All these, as much as the drawing of the face, express Hynes’ personality and her sense of style.   

From the mid-1920s Hodgkins also created a number of designs for textiles and several of these are included in this exhibition.  

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