[Mousehole Cornwall 1]

Harbour at low tide. Foreground left group of three beached row boats. Foreground right, one row boat, also beached. Midground derrick with crossbeam, houses on cliff to left.

Other title(s)
5 Boats and Derrick
c. 1950 1954
Object type
Medium and materials
oil on canvas
Place Made
Cornwall, England

LL black brush point Flora Scales

Verso (not in artist's hand) Mousehole, Cornwall

General notes

Original owner Mrs. Patience Tennent, the artist’s niece. Titled according to information given to Tennent by the artist.

Alternative title, 5 Boats and Derrick, taken from the exhibition Flora Scales at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018.

In conversation with B. de Lange, 1983, Scales spoke of living in “a horrible yellow house in Mousehole.” The yellow house seen in this painting, Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 2] [BC029] and Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 3] [BC030] could possibly be the one to which she was referring.

As in Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 2] [BC029] and Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 3] [BC030], the derrick is the focal point of this composition. The V-shape formed by its vanes links this painting to the early shapes of ship’s rigging [Shipping, Wellington Harbour] [BC128]], the agaves of the 1930s [Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016]] 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.

Used as illustration

Flora Scales, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018, pg 14 (colour)