“It could be wished that Miss Flora Scales had given the same care to all the details of her very clever picture, ‘The Valley Road’ (7), that she has bestowed on most of them. In many respects this is certainly one of the best pictures in the exhibition: The figure of the girl, the cows and the landscape generally are admirable. They are drawn with vigour, and the brilliant light is very well managed. But why those unfortunate trees on the left? They might have been well enough in an impressionist sketch, but as it is they are wholly “out of the picture.” It would have been quite possible, and legitimate, to paint them broadly without making them mere flat-slabs of colour. There is no accounting, or excuse, for such an eccentricity in a picture which otherwise possesses great charm.”
The Valley Road
Rural landscape. Back view of young woman wearing a hat and pinafore. She holds a stick in her left hand and follows two cows with right flank showing. A row of poplars at left. Path winds towards distant hills.
This is a reproduction of Scales’ painting in the Canterbury Society of Arts Annual Exhibition Catalogue 1919, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1919 [see Related Images]. Exact date unknown, dated according to the catalogue accompanying the Canterbury Society of Arts exhibition. It was catalogued as follows: The Valley Road, oil, no. 7, 20 x 16, £10.10.0. This is the only image recorded of this work, it's location is unknown.
In three of Scales’s early 1920s landscape paintings, Untitled [Landscape with curved road and trees] [BC121], Untitled [Nelson Farm Landscape] [BC127] and The Valley Road [BC139], a wide curved road leads deep into the middle distance on a strong left to right diagonal implying by its curve an eventual return towards the centre of the composition to balance the two point perspective. Shadows and the hazy blue distance of the atmospheric perspective contribute to the naturalism of the scene in keeping with the conventions of landscape painting in New Zealand at that time.
Taking heed of Hofmann’s theories, in her late 1930s Basilica series, Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016], Mediterranean Village [BC019] and Basilica and Lighthouse, St Tropez, Southern France [BC021], Scales has adjusted the role of the curved path. Reduced in scale and curved towards the edge 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.
The curved path is seen in later works such as St Michael [BC041] [c. 1958-1962] where, with the subtlety and sensitivity of her brush strokes and harmony of colour, Scales distils an expansive landscape to her small canvas, enhancing the grandeur of the scene.
Canterbury Society of Arts Catalogue 1919, Christchurch, plate 7 (https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/media/uploads/2010_08/CSA_Catalogue_1919.pdf)