Edition – 42/50
Artist Info – Frank Hodgkinson
Francis George Hodgkinson was born in Ashfield, Sydney on 28 April 1919, youngest of five siblings to working class parents of Irish decent. One grandmother was Basque Spanish.2 His father was a signwriter and decorator. Young Frank began painting when
he was a student at Fort Street Boys High in the early 1930s. At the age of 16 he left school and apprenticed as a lithographer. For a short time, he worked as a commercial artist and later freelanced as a newspaper illustrator and press artist for The Sydney Mail and at Frank Packer’s newly founded Daily Telegraph. When World War II broke out, he went to Melbourne to join his brother Roy at The Herald.3
Hodgkinson was a talented illustrator, but his dream was to become a painter. Commercial work was a necessary means to sustain himself. At night he took up art classes at the Royal Art Society of NSW studying drawing under Sydney Long (1871–1955), and came under the tutelage of Anthony Dattilo Rubbo (1870–1955). While Long was reactionary toward modern art, Rubbo was open to new ideas. The first modern paintings in Australia emerged from Rubbo’s classes, notably those of Grace Cossington Smith (1892–1984), Roland Wakelin (1887–1971) and Sydney Long. Hodgkinson regarded Rubbo not as a great teacher but appreciated the scholarly approach. But it was Long who instilled in Hodgkinson an idea of what painting could be like and an understanding of the process of painting.
‘Segnior’ Rubbo parted from the Art Society in 1934 and set up his own school in Bligh Street. There Hodgkinson met fellow students Donald Friend (1915–1989), Wolfgang Cardamatis (1917–2010) and Wallace Thornton (1915–1991), with whom he started a sketch club at a studio in Edgecliff. He later commented about this early period of his artistic career: “It seems to be a tradition that Australian painters have learnt more from each other than in schools. Wallace had books and reproductions which opened many new horizons to me.”