Gwen Knight (1908-1974)
Untitled [Fishermen Sailing Boats and Row Boats]
Reproduced with the kind permission of Mrs Gabrielle Carmen Lees
Photograph B. de Lange, taken 1980s
Image taken from photographic transparency slide
This painting was exhibited and sold from John Leech Gallery, Remuera, Auckland, New Zealand, in the 1980s. Records of the work are now not available.
This is a close view of La Pesquière, the fishermen's landing stage on the eastern side of Plage de la Ponche, the fishing harbour of St Tropez, France. Flora Scales in conversation with M. de Lange, 1984, said that Gwen Knight had also painted this scene which she vividly remembered. This is possibly the painting Scales was referring to.
Gwen Knight, Frances Hodgkins, Maude Burge and May Smith went to Ibiza at the end of 1932. Francis Hodgkins was there for six months, Gwen Knight stayed for six years.
Seascape featuring row boats moored to left of landing stage and two beached row boats. Tree trunk to right encircled by green leaves and a vine. Water and hills upper third of painting.
LL blue brush point Flora Scales 1932-3 or 5
LR scratched into ochre paint St [sic] Maxime
Verso (in Patience Tennent’s hand) St [sic] Maxime from St Tropez
Original owner Mrs Patience Tennent, the artist’s niece. First and second titles according to inscriptions. The second verso in Tennent’s hand recording information sent back to New Zealand with the painting. Third title, Overlooking Med Harbour, taken from the exhibition Flora Scales at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018.
This is a close view of La Pesquière, the fishermen's landing stage on the eastern side of Plage de la Ponche, the fishing harbour of St Tropez. Also seen in Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 2 [BC017]. Scales is painting from above the landing stage looking across the gulf to St Maxime which is directly north and twenty-five minutes by ferry from La Pesquière.
Letter from Hélène Riboty, Archives communales de Saint-Tropez, France, to Gérard Dubosson, researcher, Nelson, New Zealand, 03.04.2020: “[This] seems to me painted from one end of the place du révelin, one sees la plage de la ponche (and la pesquière) which was the port of the fishermen of Saint-Tropez.”
Flora Scales in conversation with M. de Lange, 1984, said that Gwen Knight had also painted this scene which she vividly remembered. Gwen Knight, Frances Hodgkins, Maude Burge and May Smith went to Ibiza at the end of 1932. Francis Hodgkins was there for six months, Gwen Knight stayed for six years. She recalled: “There were men with their nets spread out to dry on a huge concrete landing stage. It was always draughty. There was a little beach and tall houses and a clothesline with sailors' trousers and a vine with bright green leaves. I sat with my work on my lap and my bag was beside me – cats played around me, jumping into my bag.”
Scales also explained her choice of a high viewpoint: “In order to grasp the subject in one moment - the moment of seeing it and then, step-by-step, you see more, more is revealed.”
Possibly painted in 1931 or early 1932, under the tuition of E. D. Kinzinger, before Scales left to briefly visit New Zealand. Certainly painted before June 1932. From October, during the winter of 1932-1933, Scales was in Munich, Germany, at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art.
Scales described the delight of travelling south to St Tropez by train in the 1930s to Linda Gill, 27.08.1976, “... through the most wonderful landscape – the houses are pink and they rise straight out of the grapevines which are sometimes quite yellow.”
A few years earlier the English painter Vanessa Bell had also described the dramatic contrast between Northern Europe and the South of France, and the joy of living and working in the "Midi", in a letter to her sister, Virginia Woolf, 05.02.1927: “Painting is a different thing here from what it can be in the winter in England. It’s never dark even when the sky is grey. The light...is perfect and even now one could often work out of doors, if one wanted to. It makes such a difference to be sure one won’t be suddenly held up in the middle of something by fog or darkness. Also the beauty is a constant delight. The people are very friendly and helpful and living is very cheap...it seems more and more ridiculous for painters to spend half their lives in the dark.” (excerpt from Spalding, Frances, Vanessa Bell: Portrait of the Bloomsbury Artist, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, London, England, 2016, pg 216)
While in St Tropez, France, Scales met artists Frances Hodgkins and Gwen Knight. As reported by The Evening Post, 25 January, 1932, ‘Valuable Pictures’, “Maude Burge and Flora Scales were staying last summer  at St Tropez in the South of France with Frances Hodgkins and Gwen Knight of Wellington and all were attending a summer school there.”
Excerpt from An accompanied solitude, an essay by Boris Kalachnikoff, January 1991: “[Flora Scales] had an artist friend, Miss Knight, with whom she had warm and sincere conversations and exchanged paintings in a friendly way, in the sunny countryside of St Tropez.”
Excerpt from Letters of Frances Hodgkins, ed. Linda Gill, Auckland University Press, New Zealand, 1993, pp 441-442, letter 438 to Dorothy Selby from the Hotel Sube in St Tropez, 25 June, 1931, from St Tropez, France: “There is a Professor from Munich here who is making them stretch their brains. He is very able – and a good lecturer – young and nice looking with a charming pyjama-ed American wife…His principles are sound – even if one dislikes his sort of art.” Gill’s footnote no. 39 for this letter states that the Professor was Edmund Daniel Kinzinger.
These reports suggest that Scales knew, and possibly received instruction from, Kinzinger in St Tropez before arriving at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art, Munich, Germany, in October 1932.
Apparently it was Gwen Knight who advised Scales to travel to Munich for a longer and more concentrated period of tuition at the Hans Hofmann School where she herself had spent six months, 3 October 1929 – 2 April 1930.
Scales may have bought this painting to New Zealand with her when visiting in 1932 for a few months to care for her mother, or when she returned again in 1934.
The verso inscription suggests that it may have been sent independently of Scales’s own voyage to New Zealand in mid-1932.