New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Annual Exhibition 1934
In 1934 Flora Scales exhibited in three exhibitions in New Zealand, directly after her time in Munich, Germany, at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art. If known, the works exhibited at these exhibitions would no doubt provide a great deal of information and insight into the immediate results of that experience. So far, all that is known of the works shown in the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Annual Exhibition is documented in a photograph published in the Northern Advocate, 9 October 1934, pg 8 [see Related Images].
One of several possible explanations for the lack of information about or known locations of the artworks shown in these three exhibitions is that Scales may have taken them back with her to France in 1936. The tragic extension of this supposition is that they then shared the fate of much of her European work from the late 1920s and early 1930s, stored in Wheatley’s Warehouse, 32 rue Caumartin, Paris 9e, that was plundered in the early 1940s by the German Army of Occupation.
Flora Scales in conversation with Janet Paul, 1983, described learning about this event when she returned to retrieve her possessions after being released from WWII internment camp Frontstalag 142 in Vittel, Vosges, France, October 1942:
“[I was told that] the Germans came to the warehouse and marked anything of interest. They returned the next day to collect the marked material.”
The modernism of Scales’s work signalled its status as ‘degenerative’ art. As such it may have been appropriated by an interested public or private collector, stored, sold or destroyed. So far, investigations have not revealed any more specific information.
Scales wrote two letters to the Secretary of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts from Tahunanui, Nelson, 24.08.1934, regarding the exhibition of 1934. In one of these letters she asks, “Would it be permitted to send two paintings which I composed in a School of Instruction while on the Continent, though the Professor did very little to them.” Presumably having received permission her next letter dated 29 August reads: "Thank you...I will send them over with one other and enclose herewith the form of entry."
The photograph published in the Northern Advocate (9 October 1934) shows a press photograph of eight paintings on an exhibition wall at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. There are three paintings by Scales shown, all in identical frames – lower left, no. 146 Drapery, 3rd from lower left, no. 148 Still Life Group, 2nd from upper left, no. 147 Group.
The catalogue entries for exhibition catalogues the works as follows:
No. 146 Drapery £25.0.0
No. 147 Group £20.0.0
No. 148 Still Life Group £25.0.0
28 September, 1934
Wellington, New Zealand
“If visitors to the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Annual Exhibition now open to the public in the Whitmore Street Gallery, begin the tour of the main downstairs gallery with the end wall immediately on the right of the entrance, they will be confronted at once with some of the most arresting paintings in the exhibition. They are not necessarily the best, but owing to the fact that among them are samples of 'modern' art, they are bound to attract attention. The most provocative of all form a group of three on the extreme left of the wall. In these, "Drapery" (146), "Group" (147) and "Still Life" (148), Flora Scales shows what study under a continental master can produce.
The apparently deliberate neglect of perspective and of the usually acceptable laws of optics as applied to shadows is amply compensated for by gorgeous splashes of colour, but it must be purely a matter of individual taste whether such productions do or do not appeal as art.”
“The paintings of Flora Scales strike a note not common to a New Zealand exhibition. She prefers not to bind herself to accepted principals of perspective and naturalistic representation. Her aim is to create a theme based on abstract orchestration of line, mass and colour. Within these limits she presents compositions which are stimulating and of unusual interest.”