A mid 20th century painter, illustrator and cartoonist, Frank Hodgkinson was a war artist with the AIF during WW2 before re-locating to Europe where he spent a number of years living, studying and exhibiting in Europe, particularly Spain. Upon returning to Australia Hodgkinson helped to establish the 'artists-in-the-field' program sponsored by the (then) Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern T
painter, illustrator and cartoonist, was born in Sydney. He began painting aged 14 when a student at Fort Street Boys High. He left school at the age of 16 and was briefly apprenticed to a lithographer, then worked as a commercial artist for a short time and later freelanced as an illustrator. In the 1930s while working fulltime, including being a cartoonist on the Sydney Daily Telegraph , he studied at the Royal Art Society School with Sydney Long and Dattilo Rubbo , following the latter when he set up the Dattilo Rubbo Atelier. He had not long completed his studies and was working in Melbourne as a press artist on the Herald in 1939 when WWII broke out. He joined up and served with the Australian Imperial Force in North Africa, Syria and New Guinea in 1940-46, being mentioned in despatches for conspicuous gallantry on the Owen Stanley Ranges.
Cartoons drawn in Palestine include the series A Design for Living 1941: 'Palestine is a man’s country – the “Wog” may be primitive but he has the right slant on domestic bliss’ (Arab on a donkey followed by his wives and children on foot bearing loads and observed by two Diggers)/ 'Why not introduce a new order on our return’ (man on bike followed by laden wife, baby in billycart and two kids)/ 'If it works maybe we’d even get away with this (husband going into pub leaving laden wife outside, “I won’t be half an hour dear!”/ Well I did say MAYBE!’), brush and ink with blue wash over pencil, 53.4 × 42.8 cm, published Active Service (original AWM 1941, p.97 – AWM Acc. No. I 630, cat.62, transferred from Private Records Collection 1985).
He was appointed a captain and official war artist and sent to Borneo, where he drew and painted the Allies’ assault landings at Balikpapan, which deeply affected him. After the war he went to London, 'and then on to Paris and Rome and to Madrid, where I studied in each place, not formally in any particular school but rather under my own steam’ (Hazel de Burgh coll, NLA, quoted McDonald). He did undertake short periods of study under Bernard Meninsky at the Central School of Art and Craft in London and also at the Académie Grand Chaumière in Paris, returning to London from time to time to support his study with freelance illustration. He also took lessons in printmaking at S.W. Hayter’s renowned Atelier 17 in Paris.
Returning to Sydney after six years in Europe, Hodgkinson made abstract etchings, printed by Strom Gould , e.g. Tauromaquia 1953, strongly influenced by the modern Spanish art he had seen – works by Canogar, Cela, Suarez, Tapies et al. He returned to Spain to live in 1958 after winning the inaugural Helena Rubenstein Travelling Scholarship. From then on his art became more abstract and expressionist. He lived in the USA (1961-2), Spain again (1963-67) then Italy (1967-69). He was exhibited as a Spanish artist in both Spain and at the Tate Gallery, London; in 1964, Colin Jack-Hinton notes, the Spanish critic Arean described him as 'one of the most rigorous and authentic painters of the time’ and 'a foreigner who more than most understands the spirit, gallantry and elegance of Spain’. Nevertheless, he regularly visited Australia throughout the 1960s, where he also exhibited his work, and in 1970 became keen on rediscovering the Australian landscape and returned home permanently.
He lived in Cairns for a few months in 1971 until invited by his friend Clifton Pugh to join him at 'Dunmoochin’, Pugh’s property at Cottles Bridge outside Melbourne. Fellow artists working there included John Olsen, whom Hodge had got to know well in Spain, Fred Williams and Albert Tucker . Stimulated by Pugh and his more recent study with Hayter’s oil viscosity process Hodginson produced two series of prints, Inside the Landscape and Landscape Inside (both 1971) – figurative images that are 'a joyous celebration of female and landscape forms’ (Butler), which broke new ground in colour and texture printing (McD). He and Pugh produced IS , a book of prints with poems by Harry Roschenko, one of the first artist collaborations in Australia, acc. McDonald.
In 1976 Hodgkinson married Kate Ratten whom he had met at Pugh’s and they moved to the then bush at Kenthurst, outside Sydney; their daughter Zoe was born c.1980. They built a home and studio set over a precipitous gorge in 'magnificent land’. Hodge remained there for the rest of his life, apart from being artist-in-residence at the National Art School, Papua New Guinea in 1977 (resulting in Sepik Diary , 1982) and at the University of Melbourne in 1979. From 1978 to 1987 he made more or less annual trips to the Northern Territory, leading to several exhibitions (his first Arnhem Land exhibition was held in 1979), the publication of Kakadu and the Arnhem Land (1987), and, with Colin Jack-Hinton, setting up the 'artists-in-the-field’ program sponsored by the (then) Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory. He died at home on 20 October 2001.
Hodge worked with his friend Max Miller on many of later prints, most published by Port Jackson Press. The Melbourne Savage Club has examples of his work, according to Dow, evidently donated by his brother Roy Hodgkinson , a longtime active member. From the late 1990s Roger Butler was instrumental in acquiring much of his large personal archive of prints, sketchbooks and drawings for the NGA.