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Object: Cut melons

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Title Cut melons
Production Hodgkins, Frances (artist), circa 1931, England
Medium summary oil on cardboard
Materials oil paint, cardboard
Classification oil paintings, still lifes, landscapes
Dimensions Image: 528mm (Height) x 642mm (Length)
Frame: 744mm (Height) x 853mm (Length) x 66mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1980 with Special Projects in the Arts funds
Registration number 1980-0063-2

In Cut Melons, Frances Hodgkins combines the genres of still life and landscape that resulted in her most innovative work. A still life of melons and pottery jugs set out on a cloth is set against a distant landscape of tree and building. Hodgkins makes no distinction between the foreground and the background. Instead, she uses the shapes and colours of the various elements to create an ambiguous and exuberantly decorative space.

An unconscious surrealist
Cut Melons was exhibited in the early 1930s. A reviewer described Hodgkins as 'an unconscious surrealist' who 'takes things from any level of the consciousness and then tries to establish connexion between them . . . She is at her best, perhaps, in persuading still life objects that they really belong to the landscape.'

A leading modern painter
In 1940, the British critic Raymond Mortimer described Hodgkins as 'the most inventive colourist in England'. Hodgkins was part of the Seven and Five group, along with artists such as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Her work was firmly part of the avant-garde in England. Yet this counted against her in New Zealand. Cut Melons was one of six of her paintings offered to the National Art Gallery in 1944, and turned down. It was eventually purchased in 1980.

Te Papa owns sixty-three works by Hodgkins, from early watercolours painted in New Zealand to late examples of the paintings that bought her critical acclaim in England.

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