BC020

Untitled

[Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez]

Landscape. Centre, church tower and red roof tops. Left midground, lighthouse with black dome. Path lined with agaves curves from lower centre to right. Mid right margin, tree on mound, extends to upper margin where a cropped branch veers left. Water, shoreline and mountains in distance.

Other title(s)
Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez
Date
1939
c. 1934
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on canvas on board
Dimensions
image:280x335mm
frame:320x375mm
Place Made
St Tropez, France
Inscriptions

LL brown brush point F Scales 1939 (date partially illegible)

Details
Provenance

Sold by the original owner, Patience Tennent, by auction at Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, 09.04.1995, Lot 59

Sold by auction at Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, 22.03.2006, Lot 106

Purchased by Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington with Ellen Eames Collection funds, 2006

Copyright Licence
Courtesy Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand, Registration no. 2006-0007-5, https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/714109
Current Collection

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Current Location

Wellington, New Zealand

General notes

Date inscription partially illegible, last figure possibly resembles a 9.

Alternative title and date, Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez, 1934, taken from Te Papa documentation and the exhibition Flora Scales at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, records date as c.1934.

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

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], Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez, Southern France [BC021]]. It seems that Scales did not return to St Tropez after 1939 and these are the last of her sunny, colourful cubist compositions.

John Drawbridge, in conversation with B. de Lange, 1983, noted the “small, human scale of the painting and the groupings of the roofs, which convey aeons of time, tradition, human lives and work – something one would not find in New Zealand.”

Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, in conversation with B. de Lange, 03.05.2019, “… she was a Modernist with conviction.”

B. de Lange, 15 June, 2021: “Gwen Knight’s Mediterranean Scene (see Related Artworks), of a similar scene, shows that although both artists had been exposed to Hans Hofmann’s deeply significant theories they were free to make of them what they chose. There was no uniformity of result – all was valid and valued – except for the artifice of linear perspective, outlawed in the 19th Century by Cézanne and the Cubists who followed him, including Hans Hofmann.

Scales’s version is a very deliberately selected fragment of the expansive Mediterranean coast chosen to fulfil her aesthetic requirements. It includes the three key elements of lighthouse, tower and tree which, like the monuments along ley lines, seem to have an almost supernatural significance – in this case as signifiers of pictorial space.

Scales has condensed, cropped and simplified; she has used contrasts of height, shape and colour to enliven and energise her work. The resulting abstraction is direct, strong, uncompromising, almost harsh, in its intense focus on the concerns of Modernism – in which the subject of the painting is the painting itself.

Scales has no interest in replicating the landscape but recruits it as a vehicle for her vision. She has taken a position above the town and bay which effectively tilts distance close to the flat surface of her picture plane or canvas. The construction of shallow space is reinforced by joining the tip of the cupola to the mountains – as if the hook is reeling them closer.”

Peter Ireland on his 2010 exhibition, ‘Notes about Modernity’ exhibition, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 28 November 2020 (see Related Artworks):

“In 2010 I had a solo show titled Modernity at Thermostat, a dealer gallery in Palmerston North. It consisted of 13 works made specifically for the show (barring the Gozzoli-influenced image mentioned in the following paragraph), around the theme of (a) European artists who came to New Zealand in the 1800s, particularly those more professional ones arriving towards the end of that century, and (b) New Zealand artists who went to Europe to study and work from around the same time, those comings and goings marking a new stage in the professionalism of New Zealand artists, who made – and continue to make, in some cases – a contribution to this culture, whether they ever returned to New Zealand or not. The cases of Frances Hodgkins and Len Lye amply illustrate this point.

The idea for this project grew out of a slightly earlier work from 2006-2010 titled “Benozzo Gozzoli Reaches Modernity, 1451”, a reworking of an image by the Italian artist Benozzo Gozzoli 1421-1497 derived from his fresco cycle around the life of St Francis of Assisi. Gozzoli, being an early Renaissance artist, was a kind of Modernist for his day, such nomenclature suggesting an historical continuity starred throughout by sudden and seemingly radical developments refreshing and often destroying current conventions of depiction. For instance, a recent development during Postmodernism specific to New Zealand is how Maori and Pacific imagery and practice is more generally affecting local art-making – but not without a debate about appropriation.

The catalogue for this exhibition was as follows:
William Fox reaches Canterbury, 1851
Edward Fristrom reaches Auckland, 1903
Benozzo Gozzoli reaches Modernity, 1451
Rhona Hazard reaches France, 1926
Raymond McIntyre reaches London, 1909
Charles Meryon reaches Akaroa, 1845
James Nairn reaches Dunedin, 1890
Flora Scales reaches France, 1928
Sydney Thompson reaches France, 1900
John Weeks reaches Paris, 1925
Richard Wilson reaches Dunedin, 1947 (the year a work of his Roman Bridge at Rimini, was acquired by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
Rita Angus reaches herself, 1951 (a work based on her Rutu, but restoring her Pakeha identity)

Each image consisted of my take on a particular image by the respective artist, and for Flora Scales I chose one of her Mediterranean coastal settings “Untitled [Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez]” 1939, but I changed one thing and added a set of four others. The landscape in the background was changed to the hills behind Eastbourne as seen from Wellington city, and I added a triangle at each corner of the work, to “secure” it as photographic corners secure an image in an album, each triangle depicted in either black, red or white, a trio generally accepted as indicating a Maori reference, itself indicating a nod to Aotearoa. In a sense, I guess I was “bringing the image back home”. It’s now in a private collection in Whanganui.”

Exhibitions
References

Catalogue essay by Jill Trevelyan, The Sir Ivor Richardson Art Collection, Dunbar Sloane, Wellington, New Zealand, 22.03.2006

“Lot 106 Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez 1930 is a luminous oil painting from this period. Adopting a high viewpoint and eliminating unnecessary detail, Scales reduces the forms of the village to a series of interlocking planes of colour.

It was works like Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez that so impressed the young Toss Woollaston when Scales returned to Nelson. ‘I have been to see Miss Scales’, he wrote to his friend Rodney Kennedy in 1934, ‘I am agog.’1”

1 Undated letter [May 1934] in Toss Woollaston: A Life in Letters, ed. Jill Trevelyan, Te Papa Press, 2004, p.38.

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