Sine Mackinnon

Farm Buildings in Provence


Not on display

Sine Mackinnon 1901–1996
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 270 × 410 mm
Purchased 1940

Catalogue entry

Sine Mackinnon 1901-1996

Farm Buildings in Provence 1934


Oil on canvas 270 x 410 (10 5/8 x 16 1/8)

Purchased from the artist through Arthur Tooth & Sons (Knapping Fund) 1940

Sine Mackinnon: Recent Paintings of France, Greece and Portugal, Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, April-May 1940 (20)
Tate Gallery Wartime Aquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (73)
A Selection from the Tate Gallery’s Wartime Acquisitions, CEMA tour, Royal Exchange, July-Aug. 1942, Cheltenham Art Gallery, Sept., Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Oct., Galleries of Birmingham Society of Arts, Nov.-Dec., Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Jan.-Feb. 1943, Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, Feb-March, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, March-April, Manchester City Art Gallery, April-May, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, May-June, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, June, Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery, Kelvingrove, July, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Aug. 1943 (50, as Provençal Landscape)

Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, II, London 1965, p.417

Despite the application in places of impasto with a palette knife, the texture of the canvas support is visible over most of Farm Buildings in Provence. The larger part appears to have been worked with a brush, though a knife has been used to apply an appropriate texture to areas like the roof of the buildings, the top of the hill and the ploughed furrows on the right-hand side. The artist seems to have used the handle of a brush or similar point to achieve the texture of the edge of the roof and the grassy fringe at the foot of the hill.

The artist told the Tate Gallery that she thought the painting was executed in 1934 before the birth of her daughter Jan in August 1935.[1] The snow on the top of the hill in the picture and the leafless state of the olive trees would suggest that the painting was executed in the winter of 1934-35. Jan Fordham has speculated that the location might be in the vicinity of St Remy de Provence, one of Mackinnon’s favourite places.[2] A local resident has suggested that the farm may be the Mas de la Dame on the southern side of Les Alpilles range of hills, about ten miles south of St Remy.[3] Though extensive additions to the Mas de la Dame c.1938/9 make it impossible to identify it unequivocally with the farm in the picture, M. Chormi, observing that in the 1930s there were few buildings of that size in the area, believed the relationship between the building and the hills was the same as in the painting.

Miss Fordham also stated that Mackinnon always worked on the spot, taking between a week and ten days to complete an oil painting.[4] The artist did not make preparatory drawings but usually roughed out the main forms on the canvas in pencil or charcoal; the paint is too thick and its coverage too complete to confirm that this is the case in Farm Buildings in Provence. The scene is painted with bold and bright colours - an almost cerulean sky and orange/brown earth - and the suggestion of a stark light. This may reflect the conditions in which the painting was executed. It also exemplifies a quality typical of her work: a sharpened naturalism and the use of acidic colours which derive from the artist’s mood as much as from her subject. Small holes in all four corners and a circular abrasion around the hole, top left, indicate that the canvas was pinned up after completion.

In a review of the exhibition from which this painting was purchased in 1940, a critic commented upon the lack of human beings in Mackinnon’s pictures, which he compared to ‘the ghostly quality of Christopher Wood’s lovely seashores’.[5] In 1940 Farm Buildings in Provence was recommended for the Tate Gallery by the painter Allan Gwynne-Jones, who had been a fellow student at the Slade School with Mackinnon and had painted her portrait in 1922 - Portrait of an Art Student, c.1922.[6]

Chris Stephens
Feb. 1998

[1] Letter to Tate Gallery, 26 June [1953]
[2] Jan Fordham, letter to Tate Gallery, 26 Feb. 1996
[3] André Chormi, telephone conversation with the compiler, 8 May 1996
[4] Jan Fordham, letter to Tate Gallery, 26 Feb. 1996
[5] Thomas McGreavy, ‘In the World’s Art Centres’, Studio, vol.120, July 1940, p.22-3
[6] Repr. Allan Gwynne-Jones, exh. cat., National Museum of Wales, Cardiff 1982, p.29 (col.)

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