BC019

Mediterranean Village

View of a village, sea and distant hills. Elevated view point. Tree trunk on mound right framing edge, tree canopy at upper right. Left of centre tower of church. Small cross at end of nave tilts to upper left. Church tower surrounded by densely grouped roof tops. Sea separates village from distant hills or mountains.

Date
1938
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on canvas on board
Dimensions
327x409mm
Place Made
St Tropez, France
Inscriptions

LR cobalt blue brush point Flora Scales 1938

Verso on frame label New Zealand Painting 1920-1940, A QEII Arts Council of New Zealand Exhibition, Catalogue No 66, Artist: Flora Scales, Title: Mediterranean Village

Details
Provenance

Donated to the The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, by Mrs M. Hamersley, 1971

Copyright Licence
Courtesy The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Current Collection

The Dowse Art Museum

Current Location

Lower Hutt, New Zealand

General notes

Donated to the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, Mrs M. Hamersley, by Flora Scales's sister, in 1971.

This painting was a gift from Flora Scales to Patience Tennent, her niece, in 1939, perhaps to mark the occasion of her marriage to Harry Westacott in Malta, 21.04.1939. B. de Lange, June 2021, “It says much for this painting that Flora Scales gave it, perhaps as a wedding present, to her only niece, Patience, in 1939."

This is the old town of St Tropez, France. The church is L’Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption.

Scales has described the densely built structure of the mediaeval town with a series of angular interlocking planes which tip and tilt against each other, in contrast to the smooth expanse of cobalt blue sea and the longer, softer curves of the distant hills.

There are three paintings in the group based on the basilica and lighthouse in St Tropez from the late 1930s, Mediterranean Village [BC019], Untitled [Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez] [BC020] and Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez, Southern France [BC021]. It seems that Scales did not return to St Tropez after 1939. These are the last known of her sunny, colourful, cubist compositions.

Taking heed of Hofmann's theories, in these works Scales has adjusted the role of the curved path. Reduced in scale and curved towards the vertical of her canvas it plays its part in the formal arrangement of colour, geometric planes and diverging diagonals to suggest the space and vitality of the scene without recourse to traditional rules of perspective.

Elizabeth Eastmond and Merimeri Penfold in Women and the Arts in New Zealand: Forty Works: 1936 - 86 (Penguin, Auckland, New Zealand, 1986) wrote, “The painting ‘Mediterranean Village’ (1938, Dowse Art Gallery, Lower Hutt) shows the late cubist style, which together with the Mediterranean colouring, was a characteristic of her work during this period. In the New Zealand context it looked extraordinary to reviewers. Her work was dubbed typical of the ‘earthquake school’.”

Toss Woollaston in Sage Tea: An Autobiography (Collins, Auckland, New Zealand, 1980, pg 247) wrote, “Always draw from a position above your subject,’ instructed Miss Scales, ‘and tilt the planes up, to make them closer to the picture-plane.’…Always, too, draw as if you were more to one side or the other, not squarely in front of your subject. To achieve this, and as a result of it, your verticals will be, no matter how slightly, in contrast with the edges of the picture-plane, your horizontals with the top and bottom of it (not parallel with them). If I argued that a line in a Cézanne print looked vertical, she would counter that if you measured you would find it wasn’t quite…And soon the phrase ‘earthquake school’ was coined to describe this sort of painting…My own work now appeared flat and weak. In Miss Scales’ work I noticed the strength of the feeling of space – ‘over-thereness’, I called it, the over-thereness of the object.”

B. de Lange, June 2021, "Beside E. D. Kinzinger’s contemporary coloured pastel drawing [Town in Southern France, c.1930, see Related artworks] the painterly quality of Scales’s work is highlighted. The touches of her big square brush strokes soften the facets of the architecture so sharply defined, perhaps in pencil, by Kinzinger in his decorative work of geometric shapes clustering around the church tower.

Showing these images together demonstrates the independence and freedom of the artists, schooled in Hofmann’s theories, to interpret and develop their own unique path. In the two artworks we can also see expressed the joy of painting in the Mediterranean; the warmth of sun, the earthy colours, the sea, and the ancient architecture of simple cubes and triangles. We see the insouciance, the jazziness, of the age as yet untouched and degraded by Fascism.

After this period of concentrated work between 1936 and 1939, the war, her internment, and the care of her mother were to dominate the bleak years of the 1940s. There was the need also to recuperate her own physical and psychological strength. When Scales returned to painting in the late 1940s after these trying years, which nevertheless allowed for deep reflection and the discovery of a new way ahead out of the darkness, her work became more atmospheric as she worked towards a degree of abstraction."

No. 66 in the exhibition New Zealand Painting, 1920–1940: Adaptation and Nationalism, Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1975-1977.

Used as illustration

Kirker, Anne, New Zealand Women Artists: A Survey of 150 Years, Reed Methuen Publishers Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand, 1986, pg 66, fig. 34 (black and white)

Unidentified newspaper review of Little Landscapes, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, 1990 (black and white)

References

Woollaston, Toss, Sage Tea: An Autobiography, Collins, Auckland, New Zealand, 1980, pg 247

“Always draw from a position above your subject,’ instructed Miss Scales, ‘and tilt the planes up, to make them closer to the picture-plane.’…Always, too, draw as if you were more to one side or the other, not squarely in front of your subject. To achieve this, and as a result of it, your verticals will be, no matter how slightly, in contrast with the edges of the picture-plane, your horizontals with the top and bottom of it (not parallel with them). If I argued that a line in a Cézanne print looked vertical, she would counter that if you measured you would find it wasn’t quite…And soon the phrase ‘earthquake school’ was coined to describe this sort of painting…My own work now appeared flat and weak. In Miss Scales’ work I noticed the strength of the feeling of space – ‘over-thereness’, I called it, the over-thereness of the object.”

Eastmond, Elizabeth and Merimeri Penfold, Women and the Arts in New Zealand: Forty Works: 1936 - 86, Auckland, New Zealand, Penguin, 1986

“The painting ‘Mediterranean Village’ (1938, Dowse Art Gallery, Lower Hutt) shows the late cubist style, which together with the Mediterranean colouring, was a characteristic of her work during this period. In the New Zealand context it looked extraordinary to reviewers. Her work was dubbed typical of the ‘earthquake school’.”

'Little Landscapes' by Lucy Alcock (curator), Little Landscapes (catalogue), The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, 1990

“In the collection of the Dowse Art Museum are a number of small, rarely exhibited landscapes...Among this selection are two very fine oil paintings by Flora Scales (1887 - 1985) which were presented to the Dowse in 1971 by Flora Scales' sister and niece, Mrs Marjorie Hamersley and Mrs Patience Tennent..."

Unidentified newspaper review of Little Landscapes, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, 1990

"The show features thirty small, rarely exhibited landscapes from the Dowse's permanent collection...curator Lucy Alcock says ‘They do not only depict the New Zealand landscape, but also countries artists had come from before they settled here, and countries they inevitably travelled to in search of a more sympathetic artistic environment.' The majority of the works were gifted to the Dowse when it first opened in 1971. Two very fine oil paintings by Flora Scales were given by her family [the other Port of Weymouth Bay [BC025]]. Scales spent her early years overseas to further her training as the tuition then available here was rather limited and generally traditional.”

Acknowledgments

Photos by Shaun Waugh

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