Little Landscapes

'Little Landscapes' by Lucy Alcock (curator), Little Landscapes (catalogue):

In the collection of the Dowse Art Museum are a number of small, rarely exhibited landscapes; the majority of which were gifted to the Museum when it first opened in 19971.  This selection consists primarily of paintings and drawings made earlier this century or late last century.  They not only depict New Zealand but also countries artists have come from before they settled here and countries they inevitably travelled to in search of a more sympathetic artistic environment.

Among this selection are two very fine oil paintings by Flora Scales (1887 - 1985) which were presented to the Dowse in 1971 by Flora Scales' sister and niece, Mrs Marjorie Hamersley and Mrs Patience Tennent.  Flora Scales spent her early years in Lower Hutt and attended the Canterbury School of Art in 1903.  Like many New Zealand artists earlier this century, she travelled overseas to further her training as the tuition then available here was rather limited and generally traditional.

She spent three years studying in France from 1928 which introduced her to a modernist style of painting, but it was only when she worked at the Hans Hofmann School of Art in Munich for 9 months in 1931 under the tuition of Edmund Kinzinger that her painting style began to alter significantly. Her work became more formal; she was more concerned with painting balanced compositions of shape and tone rather than reproducing 'realistic' landscapes with traditional vanishing-point perspective.  Her paintings from the thirties demonstrate this strong interest in geometric shapes and interlocking planes which borders on cubism.  In her later paintings, which are more atmospheric, these formal considerations are not so pronounced although she never abandoned the principles of 'drawing with construction'. Her paintwork became almost translucent as she would use a turps filled brush to remove pigment from the canvas, in a kind of negative brushwork, as much as use a brush to initially apply paint.

Port of Weymouth Bay [BC025] is a fine example of this developing style.  Although the overall impression of the painting is atmospheric and evocative, the industrial shapes of the Port are strong and distinct; they do not get lost in the evanescence. Beneath even the most delicate brushwork the artist communicates a sound knowledge of and interest in the formal shapes and volumes of the subject.  Her paintings hover between representing a decipherable scene and having as their primary motivation the immediate delight and frustration of painting; her soft mottled tones and colours blend together with a sumptuousness that is reminiscent of Bonnard.  She preferred to paint the European landscape because of its colour, for she found New Zealand a little "too green".1

Port of Weymouth Bay dates from 1945, the year after Flora Scales returned to England after having spent two years during the war interned with British women in the Vosges mountains in France, followed by two years of "ill health and deprivation in Paris".2  On the reverse of this painting an inscription reads "From the hotel where mother stayed in 1945" linking it from the history of art back into the personal history of Flora Scales.  She was a dedicated professional artist who committed herself to painting yet she rarely sought public attention or acknowledgement for her work.  The Dowse Art Museum is most fortunate to have been gifted these paintings by her family.”

Lucy Alcock
Curator, Dowse Art Museum, April 1990

1. P Tennent, conversation with author, April 1990
2. de Lange, Art New Zealand No. 37 (Summer 1985-86) p 53

Date

5 May, 1990
— 5 August, 1990

Venue

The Dowse Art Museum

Location

Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Exhibition artworks

VIEW

Exhibition reviews

Unidentified newspaper review

"The show features thirty small, rarely exhibited landscapes from the Dowse's permanent collection .... curator Lucy Alcock says ‘They do not only depict the New Zealand landscape, but also countries artists had come from before they settled here, and countries they inevitably travelled to in search of a more sympathetic artistic environment.' The majority of the works were gifted to the Dowse when it first opened in 1971. Two very fine oil paintings by Flora Scales were given by her family. Scales spent her early years overseas to further her training as the tuition then available here was rather limited and generally traditional.”