A new biography of Hodgkins, Frances Mary appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Frances Hodgkins was the third child and second daughter of William Mathew Hodgkins, barrister and solicitor, and Rachel Owen, daughter of J. S. Parker, of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Frances Hodgkins' father emigrated from Liverpool in 1858 and settled in Dunedin in 1860. He was an amateur watercolour painter of talent and the leader of local art circles, a founder member in 1875 of the Otago Art Society and its president for 18 years. Frances was born at Royal Terrace, Dunedin, on 28 April 1869.
Under her father's guidance and encouragement she exhibited for the first time at Dunedin and Christchurch in 1890, and in the same year was elected a working member of the Otago Art Society. In 1893 she attended classes held by G. P. Nerli, an Italian painter then resident in Dunedin, and in 1895 she attended Dunedin School of Art, subsequently gaining first-class passes in South Kensington examinations. In 1899, the year after her father's death, she was elected to the council of the Otago Art Society. During the period 1890–1900 Frances Hodgkins devoted most of her time to painting, going on several sketching trips, taking pupils, and exhibiting regularly at Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and once at Auckland, as well as doing illustrations for the Otago Daily Times and Witness and the New Zealand Illustrated Magazine. Her early work included figure studies, portraits, and a few landscapes.
In February 1901 she left Dunedin for England, intending to round off her art study by a short stay. She attended classes, first at the London Polytechnic, and then joined Norman Garstin's sketching class at Caudebec and, later, at Dinan and Bruges. During this first European period, labouring under considerable financial difficulties, she sketched and travelled through France and Italy to reach Morocco. She exhibited her paintings in New Zealand as well as at several private galleries in London, and her work was hung in the Royal Academy for the first time in 1903, and again in 1905 and 1916.
Returning to Wellington in December 1903, where her mother now resided, Frances Hodgkins took pupils and continued to exhibit, but found it difficult to settle. Drawn irresistibly back to Europe, she returned there in January 1906. During the period 1906–13 she moved restlessly between England and the Continent, visiting Italy, France, and Holland, and exhibiting in Paris, London, and New Zealand. In 1908 she was elected Associate of the Society of Women Artists, and in the same year she won the first prize (with Thea Proctor) in the Australian section of Women's Art at the Franco-British Exhibition. In 1909 she exhibited in the Paris Salon and in 1910, for a few months, she held a class for watercolour at Academie Colarossi, Paris, and a year later took pupils at 21 Avenue du Maine, Paris.
On 3 October, Frances Hodgkins sailed for Australia and held successful exhibitions at Melbourne and Sydney before arriving in Wellington in January 1913, but this time only as a visitor, for she returned to Australia in April the same year to hold exhibitions at Sydney and Adelaide. A short return visit to Dunedin and Wellington, where she also held exhibitions, preceded her return to Europe, landing at Naples in November 1913. Travelling slowly through Italy and France she reached England in September 1914 and spent most of the war years at St. Ives, Cornwall. Ambitious for recognition, she exhibited her works as widely as possible and occasionally held sketching classes to augment her meagre income.
After the war she spent her time partly in London and partly in Cornwall. About 1919 she did her first painting in oils, and the twenties are marked as the most experimental period in her art. During this period she travelled around a good deal to London, Great Barrington, Burford, Bridgnorth, and abroad to St. Paul, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Nice, and Tréboul, sometimes holding sketching classes. From 1922 to 1927 she made her headquarters at Manchester, where she conducted classes and worked as a textile designer for the Calico Printers' Association. In 1926 her mother died, and her last ties with New Zealand were broken.
From the end of 1927 Frances Hodgkins spent most of her time in London and Cornwall. In 1929 she became a member of the Seven and Five Society and remained a member until 1934. In 1930 she concluded an agreement with Arthur R. Howell, of St. George's Gallery, London, which later led, in 1932, to a contract with Alex Reid and Lefevre. This lasted, with one renewal, to 1939, and so she enjoyed a small regular income for the first time in her life. In 1932 she had visited the Balearic Islands, and at the end of 1934 she went to Dorset. Apart from visits to Europe, including Spain, 1935–36, and to various parts of Britain including Wales, Dorset was to be her headquarters for the remaining years of her life, first at Worth Matravers and then at Corfe Castle. During this period her style matured and her work was increasingly recognised by one-man shows in London: Claridge Gallery (1928); St. George's Gallery (1930); Lefevre Galleries (1933, 37, 40, 43); and Leicester Galleries (1935, 41). Her work was shown in the United Kingdom Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York and at the 22nd Biennale di Venezia. At the end of 1939 she was elected a member of the London Group. In 1942 she was granted a Civil List Pension. Her work was included in the Exhibition of Contemporary British Art in Paris in 1945 and in the following year her retrospective exhibition was held at Lefevre Galleries. Frances Hodgkins died at Herrison House, Dorchester, on 13 May 1947.
Since her death, her work has been exhibited at Manchester (1947); a touring exhibition in Britain (1948); St. George's Gallery (1949); Tate Gallery (1952); Leicester Galleries (1956); and Wellington (1953). The first comprehensive exhibition of her work was organised in New Zealand by the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1954. She is represented best at the Auckland City Art Gallery and also at the galleries in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Nelson, as well as in many private collections in New Zealand.
- Frances Hodgkins in New Zealand, McCormick, E. H. (1954)
- The Expatriate, McCormick, E. H. (1954)
- Frances Hodgkins, Four Vital Years, Howell, Arthur R. (1951)
- Frances Hodgkins, Evans, Myfanwy, (1948).