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Australian art

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The night is a tree of pain



Frank Hodgkinson


28 Apr 1919 - 20 Oct 2001


'The night is a tree of pain' was painted at Hodgkinson's Clareville home on Sydney's Pittwater. He had been in Spain since 1958, following his win in the inaugural Helena Rubinstein Travelling Art Scholarship, and returned again in 1963, settling at Deya de Mallorca, where his neighbours included the poet Robert Graves, and fellow Australian artists John Olsen and Paul Haefliger.

In 1963, Hodgkinson wrote:
"The title ... is a line from a forgotten Indian poem ... not intended to be descriptive but rather to suggest a mood. Though the forms relate to earthy natural growth, human and animal life, the image which teased me was the monumental stillness of totems, a symmetry suggested by the gum tree, natural totems rather than the carved and painted aboriginal ones, creating a tortured and ecstatic silence such as may be experienced in the bush at night".

Applying the knowledge he had gained abroad of Abstract Expressionism and the school of texture or matter painting - exemplified in the work of Spanish artists Tàpies, Milliares, and Suarez - Hodgkinson attempted to create in his paintings of the early 1960s, a uniform all-over texture, which evoked the coarse beauty of raw earth and a strong sense of natural substance, whilst making particular reference to the rugged bush of the area around his home.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2001


Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil on hardboard


triptych: each panel 182.9 x 121.9 cm board; 182.9 x 365.8 cm board overall; 184.5 x 368.1 x 5.5 cm frame overall :

a - left panel, 182.9 x 121.9 cm

b - centre panel, 182.9 x 121.9 cm

c - right panel, 182.9 x 121.9 cm

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner right panel [part c], black oil "Hodgkinson/ 63".
Signed c. verso right panel [part c], white oil "Frank Hodgkinson".
Signed c. verso centre panel [part b], white oil "Frank Hodgkinson".
Signed c. verso left panel [part a], white oil "Frank Hodgkinson".


Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 1963


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Frank Hodgkinson

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Barry Pearce, Hodgkinson, Sydney, 1994, 68, (colour illus.), (colour illus., detail), 173. plate no. 53

Angus Maude (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 27 Feb 1963.

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 244 (colour illus.), 301.