W. M. Hodgkins
1833 – 1898
Who was W. M. Hodgkins?
According to his daughter Frances Hodgkins the 'father of art in New Zealand', he was certainly the chief advocate of art in Dunedin when the city led New Zealand in the 19th century. The founder of New Zealand's first public art gallery and the first person to publish at any length about New Zealand art, he was a considerable water colour painter in his own right. He encouraged his daughters, one of whom, Frances Hodgkins, was regarded as Britain's most distinguished woman artist at the time of her death and is still New Zealand's best regarded expatriate painter.
Baptised in Liverpool 23 September 1833 in the heart of the city's slums he was the son of a brushmaker, also called William Hodgkins. His mother had been Jane Grocott or Groocock and his sister Jane was born in 1835. William Mathew went to school at Staveley, Derbyshire and his exercise book in penmanship survives, prefiguring his adult career as a law clerk and lawyer and his lifelong interest in graphics. By 1852 his father was in business in Birmingham but William Mathew was a law clerk in London. He lived in Holborn, worked for Waterlow and Sons, famous printers of stamps and bank notes, and for the Patent Office. By 1855 he was in Paris where he assisted in 'literary work' at Versailles, perhaps copying correspondence or graphic works. Back in London about 1857 he studied Turner's paintings and other artists, at Hampton Court and the National Gallery. In 1859 he worked at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
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