[Mousehole Cornwall 2]

View of harbour at low tide. Foreground group of beached row boats. Derrick centre midground and houses on cliff upper left.

Other title(s)
Mousehole, Cornwall
c. 1950 1959
Object type
Medium and materials
oil on canvas
Place Made
Cornwall, England

LL inky blue brush point Flora Scales

LR white over blue and ochre brush point H Scales


Purchased by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, from the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition Helen F V Scales, 1976

Copyright Licence
Courtesy Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, New Zealand, Ref. no. 76/65, https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/76-65/helen-flora-victoria-scales/mousehole-cornwall
Current Collection

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

Current Location

Christchurch, New Zealand

General notes

Title and date supplied by the artist for the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976. Listed as artwork no. 3 in this exhibition.

Alternative title, Mousehole, Cornwall, taken from Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, New Zealand, documentation.

In a wall label written for The Cornish Connection at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, New Zealand, 2017-2018, Julie Catchpole, Director, writes, “In the 1950s [Scales] must have spent time in Cornwall where by then her handling of paint is very loose and broad, almost to the point of abstraction.”

In conversation with B. de Lange, 1983, Scales spoke of living in “a horrible yellow house in Mousehole.” The yellow house seen in this painting, Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 1] [BC028] and Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 3] [BC030] could possibly be the one to which she was referring.

As in Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 1] [BC028] and Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 3] [BC030], the derrick is the focal point of this composition. The V-shape formed by its vanes links this painting to the early shapes of ship’s rigging [Shipping, Wellington Harbour] [BC128]], the agaves of the 1930s [Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016]] and the forked tree trunks of the late 1960s and early 1970s [Bry-sur-Marne, Orchard] [BC069]], in which this shape becomes a tool for her construction of dynamic pictorial space.

The V-shapes of the agaves, trees and derricks, significant elements in her work during and after the 1930s, begin to form the vocabulary of her Modernist work following Hans Hofmann's instruction to do away with single-point perspective.

As well as the equilibrium established by the balanced vanes of the V-shape, there is also an immanent sense of movement. Hofmann said, "We have to experience the object as vital in her existence in space" (Dickey, Tina, Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann, Trillistar Books, Canada, 2011, pg 27). Hofmann explained that volumes revolve on their axes to create a sense of movement and counter-movement, which animates and gives depth to the flat surface of the picture plane.

Scales's use and manipulation of the V-shape is one of several examples in her work which demonstrate the way she assimilated, and made her own, the teachings of Hans Hofmann. This example in particular shows her personal interpretation, without imitation, of his theories about the creation of plastic space, which were crucial to the development of her modernism.


‘The Cornish Connection at the Suter Art Gallery, Nelson’ by Michael Moore-Jones, https://mmoorejones.com/cornish-connection-suter-art-gallery-nelson/, 2017

“Interestingly, Flora Scales was perhaps the star of the show. A number of her late oils show the range of influences acting on her, and the kinds of skills and style she passed on to Toss Woollaston and, through Woollaston, McCahon."

‘Flora Scales’ Flicker’ by Luke Smythe, written for florascales.com, 2023

“Greniar [Greniar [Graniers], St Tropez, Southern France [BC024]] offers evidence of Scales’ increasing independence, which would strengthen further following the war. From the mid-1940s, her imagery became softer still and her paint application thinned to the extreme. Initially, in works like Port of Weymouth Bay [BC025] (1945) and Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 2] [BC029] (ca. 1950-59), she built scenes around a contrast between canted three-dimensional motifs, like boats and buildings, and a hazy, often gold-tinged environment. Once complete, these compositions appeared to have been painted in two registers: the first flat and the second volumetric.

As time wore on, however, this spatial disjunction disappeared, and by the early 1960s, the buildings that still featured in her landscapes had become as indistinct as their surroundings."


Photo by John Collie