Happy Birthday Frances Hodgkins!

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post compiled by Andrea Bell, Curator of Art

Today marks what would have been artist Frances Hodgkins’ 148th birthday. Frances Mary Hodgkins was born in Dunedin in 1869, the daughter of Rachel Owen Parker and William Mathew Hodgkins. Born into an artistic family, she joined the Otago Art Society at age 21 and dedicated her life to painting. In 1875 she studied at the Dunedin School of Art under the tuition of Italian artist Girolamo Pieri Nerli and in 1901 she travelled abroad to expand her artistic horizons. In 1912, she emigrated permanently, and went on to spent the majority of her life in Britain and Europe. Primarily a painter, she worked across a range of media including watercolour, pencil, charcoal, gouache and oils. She lived a nomadic life and travelled widely around Europe. As a result, her work underwent numerous transitions: from Impressionist to Surrealist, to Neo-Romantic with abstract tendencies—but never losing sight of her subject. At age 71 she was invited to represent Britain in the 1940 Venice Biennale, along with her younger contemporaries. Hodgkins was one of New Zealand and indeed Britain’s leading modernist painters. She died in Dorset, England in 1947, aged 78.

Frances Mary Hodgkins 1869-1947, Double portrait (1922), oil on canvas, 610 x 770mm, 73/169, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago

One of the Hocken Collections’ most prized artworks is Double Portrait (1922), depicting Hodgkins’ former art students Hannah Ritchie (left) and Jane Saunders (right), with whom she maintained a long association throughout her life. Hodgkins’ use of bright colour and flattened painting technique shows the influence of Henri Matisse, while the elongated figures call to mind Amadeo Modigliani – both artists whose work Hodgkins would have seen around this time. The patterns on the women’s dresses also foreshadows Hodgkins’ foray into textile design at the Calico Printers’ Association (CPA) in Manchester, where she worked between 1925-26. Double Portrait was sold by Ritchie in 1957 via Leicester Gallery to Charles Brasch, who bequeathed the work to the Hocken Collections in 1973.

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship was established at the University of Otago in 1962 in her honour.

 

Why preserving the original matters

Friday, April 7th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post compiled by Dr Anna Petersen, Curator of Photographs

Now that such high quality digital copies of historic photographs are possible, people sometimes question why preserving the original matters.  There are actually many reasons that can be given to justify this core business at the Hocken but this blog post will just touch on a few in relation to one specific item, P2014-001, in the Photographs Collection.

What would prove the annual highlight of donations for 2014 arrived just after New Year, when a lady walked in holding an old Christmas card box containing a family heirloom.  Mrs Joan Miskimmin had been given the contents by her father, P.D.J. Cockerill, and decided to gift it to the Hocken for safekeeping.

Once the photograph had been carefully removed from the wrapping and traces of red glitter blown away, the portrait of a young man with a small child on his knee looked familiar.  The Hocken already had a copy print of the photograph on file and the image had been published over the years in a number of books, always identified as the well-known whaler and pioneer Dunedin businessman, John Jones.  The donor knew by then, however, that this information was incorrect.

Fig. 1 John Jones, copy print, S11-315.

Thanks to maritime historian Ian Farquhar, someone had thought to question this attribution and hunted down the original.  John Jones was born in 1808 or 1809, married Sarah Sizemore in 1828 and together they had eleven children.  This would have made John in his early 30s when Daguerre first patented the daguerreotype and Talbot developed the calotype process in 1840.  Though it is often difficult to define people’s age, things didn’t seem to quite add up so Ian invited Associate Professor Erika Wolf from the University of Otago to accompany him to the owner’s home and advise on the probable date by looking at the photograph itself.

Fortunately, the history of photography encompasses the rapid development and use of many different materials and technical processes and using her knowledge, Erika could quickly determine the portrait as an ambrotype.  Ambrotypes belong to the small category employing non-paper supports and are photographs on glass as opposed to daguerreotypes on polished metal, ferrotypes (commonly known as tintypes) on lacquered iron, and opaltypes on translucent white glass.  Like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes were often put into elaborate pinchpeck frames and cased for protection but can still be easily told apart when looking at the original by the fact that daguerreotypes have a mirrored appearance, turning from positive to negative when viewed from different angles.

Ambrotypes became popular around the world in the 1850s, so even though there is nothing on the artefact to say whether or not it was produced in New Zealand, enough information could be gleaned by looking at the original to rule out the initial identification.  The portrait is now thought to be of John Jones’s eldest son, John Richard Jones (1832-1911), and his eldest daughter, Mary Louise Sarah, who was born in August 1856.

Fig. 2 John Richard Jones and Mary Louise Sarah, ambrotype, c.1858.  Hocken Photographs Collection, P2014-001.

The Hocken Photographs Collection includes examples of all the early forms of nineteenth century photography.  Every year, classes of students at the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic come to visit and learn to discern the differences by looking at the originals, Hocken staff routinely use this knowledge to help catalogue items and members of the public, including artists and photographers, request to see the real objects which have survived the years and can only be fully appreciated at first hand.  A small selection of early photographs on non-paper supports are shown below.

Fig. 3 Mother and daughter, hand-tinted daguerreotype, Whitelaw family collection, 1840-1850s. Hocken Photographs Collection, P1997-120-001.

 

Fig. 4 William Mathew Hodgkins, ambrotype, 1853 (removed from frame).  Hocken Photographs Collection, P1984-017. (Inscription on the back of the frame: ‘Photograph taken while in London the spring of 1853, at any rate before he went to Paris. The hair is not fouled, It is dressed in the fashion of the day.’)

 

Fig. 5 Three young men, ferrotype, Whitelaw family collection, 1860s-1870s.  Hocken Photographs collection, P1997-120-002. (According to historian Bill Dacker, hats were quite a feature of society in Lawrence around this time).

Fig. 6 Ellen Brook and her two daughters, Esther and Jane, opaltype, c.1895.  Hocken Photographs Collection, P1991-026. (They are dressed in mourning clothes after the death of their husband/father in a quarry during the building of the Otago Central Railway near Naseby.)

 

New Zealand Archaeology Week 2017

Monday, April 3rd, 2017 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Post prepared by Jacinta Beckwith, Kaitiaki Mātauranga Māori 

Each of us is an epitome of the past, a compendium of evidence from which the labours of the comparative anatomist have reconstructed the wonderful story of human evolution. We are ourselves the past in the present.                                                           

H.D. Skinner, The Past and the Present

This year’s inaugural New Zealand Archaeology Week (1-7 April) offers an opportune moment to highlight some of the Hocken’s archaeology-related taonga. Examples include the Otago Anthropological Society Records (1960-1983), Anthropology Departmental Seminar flyers (most dating to 1997), and a wide variety of archaeological reports, notebooks, diaries, letters and photographs including papers of David Teviotdale, Peter Gathercole and Atholl Anderson. More recently, our collections have been enhanced by the ongoing contribution of local archaeologists such as Drs Jill Hamel and Peter Petchey who regularly submit their archaeological reports, for which we remain deeply grateful.

One of our largest collections relating to the world of archaeology and anthropology are the Papers of Henry Devenish Skinner (1886-1978). At 3.14 linear metres in size, this collection comprises folders full of handwritten research and lecture notes, letters, photographs, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings pertaining primarily to Skinner’s archaeological, anthropological and ethnological work with the Otago Museum and the University of Otago, and also to his school days and military service. It includes personal correspondence detailing the collection of Māori artefacts, letters with Elsdon Best, S. Percy Smith, Willi Fels, and other notable anthropologists and collectors. Skinner’s papers also include a significant series of subject files relating to not only Māori and Pacific archaeology but also to that of Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

H.D. Skinner is fondly remembered as the founding father of New Zealand Anthropology. He is particularly known for his development of the Otago Museum, for his pioneering work on the archaeology of the Māori and for his comparative studies of Polynesian archaeology and material culture. He was the first Lecturer of Anthropology in Australasia, appointed Lecturer in Ethnology at the University of Otago in 1919 (where he lectured until 1952). He was appointed assistant curator of the Otago Museum in 1919, later becoming Director of the Museum from 1937 until 1957. Skinner was also Librarian of the Hocken from 1919 until 1928. Much of the collection expansion in the Otago Museum, and the importance placed on the collection and display of Māori and Polynesian artefacts can be attributed to him. He also expanded the Hocken’s collections, most notably in New Zealand paintings and drawings.

Skinner’s research on the Moriori represents a milestone in the history of Polynesian ethnology as the first systematic account of material culture of a Polynesian people. He set new standards in description, classification and analysis, and he demonstrated how ethnological research could contribute to important historical conclusions. Professor Atholl Anderson, Honorary Fellow of Otago’s Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, describes Skinner’s analyses of Māori material culture as prescribing the method and objectives of the discipline for over 50 years and his teaching as inspirational for several generations of archaeologists, especially in southern New Zealand.

References:

Anderson, A. Henry Devenish Skinner, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Volume 4, 1998

Skinner, H.D. The Past and the Present – Popular Lecture, in Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS 1219/071

Wells, M. Cultural appreciation or inventing identity? H.D. Skinner & the Otago Museum. BA (Hons) thesis, Otago, 2014

ITEMS ON DISPLAY

HOCKEN FOYER

Anthropology Department Seminar flyers from the late nineties. Hocken Ephemera Collection

DISPLAY TABLE

  1. Skinner, H. D. 1923. The Morioris of Chatham Islands. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Hocken Published Collection
  2. Letters from Elsdon Best and S. Percy Smith to H.D. Skinner, and envelope addressed to Corporal H.D. Skinner containing further letters and clippings relating to Moriori in ‘Letters, extracts, notes, etc. relating to Morioris’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/169
  3. Letter from J Renwick (1925) to H.D. Skinner in ‘Technology and Art of the [Moriori of the Chathams]’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/160
  4. Photos of Chatham Island artefacts in ‘Moriori Photos’ (n.d.), Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/168. Stone patu, bone fishhooks, blubber cutter, stone adzes and postcard map of Chatham Islands.
  5. Syllabus of Evening Lectures on Ethnology 1919 & University of Otago Teaching of Anthropology (n.d.) in ‘Anthropology at Otago University’, Skinner, Henry Devenish Papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-1219/022

PLINTH

  1. Freeman, D. & W. R. Geddes, 1959. Anthropology of the South Seas: essays presented to H. D. Skinner. New Plymouth, N.Z.: T. Avery. Hocken Published Collection
  2. Dr Henry Devenish Skinner at the Otago Museum (1951). D. S. Marshall photograph, Hocken Photographs Collection, Box-030-013
  3. Dr Henry Devenish Skinner and others get aboard the ‘Ngahere’ for Chatham Islands (1924). The others are identified as Robin Sutcliffe Allan, John Marwick, George Howes, Maxwell Young and Dr Northcroft. Photographer unknown, Hocken Photographs Collection, Box-030-014

PLINTH

  1. The Dunedin Causeway – archaeological investigations at the Wall Street mall site, Dunedin, archaeological site 144/469 (2010). Petchey, Peter: Archaeological survey reports and related papers, Hocken Archives Collection, MS-3415/001
  2. Beyond the Swamp – The Archaeology of the Farmers Trading Company Site, Dunedin (2004). Petchey, Peter: Archaeological survey reports and related papers, Hocken Archives MS-2082
  3. A smithy and a biscuit factory in Moray Place, Dunedin… report to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (2004). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-2073
  4. Otago Peninsula roading improvements – Macandrew Bay and Ohinetu sea walls, report to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (2010). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-4174/001
  5. Album of photographs accompanying Otago Peninsula roading improvements – Macandrew Bay and Ohinetu sea walls report (2010). Hamel, Jill, Dr: Archaeological reports, Hocken Archives MS-4174/002