"Scales attended Canterbury College School of Art and studied painting in London before returning to New Zealand in 1912. After World War I her family settled in Nelson where she worked as an orchardist, and one of the works in the Richardson Collection Lot 108 Nelson Farm Landscape [BC127] dates from these years. Like other early works, including Lot 107 Shipping Wellington Harbour [BC128] and Lot 109 Moored Yachts [BC010] it is painted in a harmonious range of low-keyed colours and demonstrates an impressionist interest in atmospheric effects."
Seascape featuring two yachts. Midground, faintly rendered portside of a yacht. Foreground, portside of a yacht at anchor with furled sail. Rippled shadows of foreground yacht and mast extend to the lower edge of the painting. Background, faintly rendered hills.
LR Flora Scales
Verso UL (not in artist’s hand) Beaglehole (since reframed)
Verso Centre (not in artist’s hand) E McVray (since reframed)
Verso LL printed label Framed by Wayne’s Gallery, Currie Street, New Plymouth (since reframed)
Sold by auction at Webb's, New Zealand, 1986
Sold by auction at Dunbar Sloane, New Zealand, 1987
Sold by auction at Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, 22.03.2006, Lot 109
The title Moored Yachts was supplied by a Dunbar Sloane auction catalogue dated 1987.
Correspondence with Sir Ivor Richardson to B. de Lange, 09.07.1987: “This painting had previously been sold at Webb’s but I missed it. I then bought it at Dunbar Sloane.” It seems likely that the purchaser from Webb’s auction was the historian, J. C. Beaglehole, and that Sir Ivor Richardson bought it from Dunbar Sloane one year later in 1987.
The outline of geometric shapes made by the mast, bowsprit and boom, herald the strong V-shape seen in the agaves of Scales's work of the 1930s [Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016]], the derricks of the 1950s [Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 2] [BC029]] 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.
In the 1930s, the use of a V-shape as a spatial tool appeared in Scales’s work. In the 1920s Scales often painted yachts and ships and it seems she may have recognised the potential of the V-shape made by their riggings and masts and later began to incorporate the form into the vocabulary of her Modernist work following Hans Hofmann's instruction to do away with single-point perspective.
The V-shapes of the agaves, derricks and cranes, flowers, and forked orchard trees, that are such significant elements in her work during and after the 1930s, literally turn the idea of a vanishing point upside-down to suggest a space extending outwards towards the vertical edges of the canvas.
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.
Catalogue essay by Jill Trevelyan, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, 2006
Photos by Shaun Waugh