BC071

Orchard with Plum Tree

[1]

Landscape. Right of centre red brown vertical which curves at upper left. Suggested white house, green window, red roof. Some evidence of diagonal element overpainted with blue and green, relieved with smudge of white mid left margin. Vertical wedge shape lower right corner.

Other title(s)
Bry-sur-Marne
Date
1969 1970
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
267x347mm
Place Made
Bry-sur-Marne, France
Inscriptions

LL ochre brush point H Scales

LL ochre signature overpainted with red brown brush point F Scales

Details
Current Collection

Private Collection

Current Location

Auckland, New Zealand

General notes

Title and date supplied by the artist for Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976. Listed as artwork no. 34 in this exhibition.

Purchased by Linda Gill from the artist in her Brentwood Avenue flat, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand, 27.08.1976. Gill recalls that Flora Scales “...came to the back door wearing an eye shade blue on top and green underneath – she was ‘cleaning’. Scales talked about wanting to paint and, not being a millionaire, that she didn’t live very comfortably and how ‘with all that standing up at the easel she became most frightfully sick’ and that it was a strange and most unsatisfactory experience to return to New Zealand after 50 years.”

The central V-shape of the forked tree trunk is reminiscent of the ship's rigging seen in Scales's work of the 1920s [Shipping, Wellington Harbour] [BC128]]. It also brings to mind the agaves of the 1930s [Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016]] and the derricks of the 1950s [Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 2] [BC029]], 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.

References

Foreword by Colin McCahon, Helen F V Scales exhibition catalogue, Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, November 1975

“We hope this exhibition will tell people of a lifetime of painting, from her sometimes didactic early work to the poetry of her plum trees [BC071-BC075, BC077] and the portraits [BC065, BC066, BC120].

The beauty of her vision comes from her thinking about painting and from the grace and care she gives to her work. Without this, how could the plum trees have grown and the portraits become so real?”

‘Flora Scales Work on Show’ by T. J. McNamara, New Zealand Herald, 9 January 1976

“Despite their small scale the works look best seen from a considerable distance. Most appealing are some anemones painted in 1968 [BC051], and a charming Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077] painted quite recently.”

'Art award a lottery for losers' by James Ross, The Week, 16 July 1976, pg 17

“In the 1969-70 series, Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077], there is an eastern almost zen-like approach to nature.”

‘A Personal Reminiscence’ by Gretchen Albrecht, Art New Zealand, issue 37, 1985, pg 52

“Also displayed along with the self-portraits was a group of Orchard with Plum Tree [BC071-BC075, BC077] paintings, exquisitely beautiful in their blushes and strokes of paint; edges dissolving and reassembling in planes of colour, and revealing an intelligent understanding of post-cubist ideas derived from Cézanne’s principles of organising pictorial space. My response to the poetic vision of these paintings was immediate and intense, and I left the Gallery driven by an urgent desire to meet and speak to the woman who had painted them.”

'A Friend of Flora' by Gretchen Albrecht, Flora Scales, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, New Zealand, 2018, pp 39-43

“My response to these self portraits [Portrait 2 [BC065], Portrait 3 [BC066], Portrait 1 [BC120]] and a poetic group of landscapes all titled ‘ Orchard and Plum Tree’ [BC071-BC075, BC077], with their strokes of paint dissolving and reassembling edges and planes of colour, was immediate and intense. I left the gallery driven by an urgent desire to meet and speak to the woman who had painted them...For me she was living proof that painting could stand at the core of a woman’s life and sustain her through anything. She was humble and unambitious for herself but always hungry for painting knowledge, which ended in her 98th year. I am richer for having known and loved her.”

Acknowledgments

Photos by Sam Hartnett

Related artworks
By other artists