Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

New Zealand Day 11: Auckland Art Gallery

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 17, 2019

Our first Auckland Writers Festival event wasn’t until the afternoon, so we visited the Auckland Art Gallery in the morning.

Though they’ve built some extensions to the original building, it’s not a large gallery, and its entire ‘Historic European’ collection was closed.  (I think that title means that they’ve stopped collecting European art?) From what we saw of the reproductions on postcards on sale in the shop, they have some great pieces, so we were a bit miffed at not being able to see any of it, especially when so much space was devoted to a fashion exhibition upstairs.  (It was Maori fashion, but I am not interested in fashion of any kind, whoever creates it.  I think women in particular would be much better off investing their time, money, and creative energies in something less ephemeral and bad for the planet.)  There was also a gallery called Guerrilla Girls whose poster art I just found tiresome.

So I would have been feeling cranky, except that the ‘Frances Hodgkins European Journeys’ exhibition was wonderful.  The exhibition is a generous retrospective of over 150 paintings of this modernist painter who was born in New Zealand.

Hodgkins (1869-1947) reminded me of Kathleen O’Connor, the Perth artist whose life story by Perth author Amanda Curtin I recently read.  Hodgkins was also a successful expatriate painter who travelled widely, visiting France, Morocco, Spain and England, where she spent her final years.  You can read more about her and see some of her paintings at Wikipedia, but these two portraits show a much more lively personality that that awful photo of her!

Hodgkins was brilliant at capturing the inner world of her subjects.  Here’s the slideshow:

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I also like this one by Laura Knight:

There’s a talk at the Writers Festival about Hodgkins to coincide with the publication of a book about her, but alas, it’s sold out.

#Professional Development Tip For Gallery Management: Interestingly, when I chatted with one of the gallery guides about this exhibition and mentioned the Kathleen O’Connor book about an expat artist in the same period, I asked if a book had been written about Hodgkins. The young woman didn’t know. Another gallery guide sent us on a fruitless search up flights of stairs for the European gallery, because she didn’t know it was closed. And the woman who sold us our tickets (the Museum and the Gallery charge International visitors, but locals have free entry), didn’t happen to mention that the European Gallery was closed. So I think if guides are going to wear t-shirts emblazoned with ‘ask me’ in both English and Maori, a little more training wouldn’t go astray).

One Response to “New Zealand Day 11: Auckland Art Gallery”

  1. […] artist Kathleen O’Connor of Paris.  Similarly, the Kiwi modernist artist Frances Hodgkins (who I discovered on my recent visit to Auckland) also expanded her ideas about art through travel, and both Nora and Hans Heysen acknowledge its […]

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