[Pedn-Olva Hotel]

Sea/landscape. Blue water separates land mass at lower half of painting from the other side of the bay. Lower half soft focus cubist jumble of shapes held together by the terracotta and ochre structure to the left. The white structure centre and the dark shape at mid-right form a visual anchor.

c. 1966 1969
Object type
Medium and materials
oil on prepared board
Place Made
St Ives, Cornwall, England

LL ochre brush point Scales

General notes

Dated according to other renderings of this subject.

Purchased by original owner from the artist in her Brentwood Avenue flat, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand, 1976, just prior to the artist returning to Europe. At time of purchase Scales added a signature, lower centre. This was removed immediately in the artist's presence when the original signature was deciphered, lower left. The original owner recalls this painting had never been framed or exhibited prior to purchase. 

This is one of a series of paintings based on the location of the Pedn-Olva Hotel on Porthminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, England. Pedn-Olva means 'lookout on the headland'. The hotel is a registered navigational mark for ships which perhaps added to its attraction as a subject for Scales, with her lifelong interest in boats, ships, piers and the sea.

The location of this work was identified by British artist, Patrick Heron, an artist-in-residence at the International Art Workshop, Teschemakers Resort, Kakanui, Oamaru, New Zealand, 9 February - 1 March 1991.

In her series of studies of this subject Scales may well have moved between a greater and lesser degree of abstraction making it difficult to determine in which order they were painted.

Diana Mills, Flora Scales’s great niece, in a letter to B. de Lange, 12.11.1983, “I visited her there in a sparsely furnished house on the side of a hill. It was jolly cold and the wind was prevented from making life completely miserable only by thick red velvet curtains. Heavy as they were they still blew at an angle into the room...I was appalled by the lack of comfort with which she lived her life.”

After the death of her mother in 1948 Flora Scales moved to Cornwall, England. Flora Scales in conversation with Janet Paul, Rotorua, New Zealand, 27 March 1979, “I went to a horrible room in Mousehole, all yellow rocks. Not a good place for painting. Back to St Ives. I lived in a little hotel on the sea front at Penzance. Had a sale and then went back to St Ives. I used to pass Barbara Hepworth's studio and could hear her hammering. She was always hammering. I didn't like to disturb her and never went in." 

The 1950s saw the burgeoning of the St Ives School of artists in England which included Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Bryan Wynter and Bernard Leach. 


‘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. Emblematic of this shift are Bry-sur-Marne Looking Towards the Marne Valley [BC045] (1965) and Untitled [Pedn-Olva Hotel] [BC063] (ca. 1966-69). Evidently there are structures nestled at the heart of both scenes, but in the former, their presence is disclosed by just a few white and terracotta dabs. In the latter, which Scales left untitled, it is only the work’s resemblance to named paintings like Boarding House, St Ives, Cornwall [1] [BC060] (1968-1970) that allows us to discern a hotel. Even then we may have doubts about its shape and construction.

In works such as these, Scales drew upon her decades of experience to develop her own radical approach to Impressionism. Setting Cézanne’s pursuit of solidity aside, but retaining and adapting his patch-work approach to composition, she returned to her Impressionist roots. Yet rather than revive her orthodox Impressionist technique of the 1910s and 1920s, she intensified the style’s dissolution of its subjects into light."


Photos by Sam Hartnett

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