BC073

Orchard with Plum Tree

[3]

Landscape. Lower edge of canvas area of blue between vertical margins. Right of centre broken vertical line crossed with thin bar of red at near mid-point. Lower left diagonal element tips to upper left side margin. Between the vertical and diagonal the thin paint is applied with more colourful areas to the left and paler areas to the right with some central red brown vertical strokes. Upper left horizontal margin a soft magenta shape above a short brown vertical.

Date
1969 1970
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on canvas on board
Dimensions
268x338mm
Place Made
Bry-sur-Marne, France
Inscriptions

LL dark brush point H Scales

LR blue brush point H Scales (barely legible)

Details
Provenance

Purchased by original owner, Miss Tait, from Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, July 1976, when it toured there from the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976

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. 37 in this exhibition.            

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.

The V-shapes of the agaves, trees and derricks, significant elements in her work during and after the 1930s, begin to form the vocabulary of her Modernist work following Hans Hofmann's instruction to do away with single-point perspective.

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.                   

Martin Gayford writing about Kano Sansetsu’s Old Plum (1646), comprising four sliding door panels, may be read as equally relevant to Flora Scales’s Orchard with Plum Tree [3] [BC073]: “…no distance, no recession – and yet the impression of volume, growth and space is stunning.” – Hockney, David and Martin Gayford, A History of Pictures, Thames & Hudson, 2016, pg 280 

Images taken from photographic transparency slides. These are the only images recorded of this work, its location is unknown.

Exhibitions
References

Foreword by Colin McCahon, Helen F V Scales exhibition catalogue, Auckland City Art Gallery, New 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.”