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This is an accomplished and distinctly modern work, with its post-impressionistic brushwork and Cezanne-esque inclusion of two other paintings in its background.
Hamblett later married McCahon, making Poppies something of a dedication to Anne for the support she gave Colin during their lives together and whose opinion he greatly valued.
A sink-or-swim condition ran through the artistic and material livelihoods of the Hamblett-McCahon partnership.
After art school, she established an all-women’s studio on Moray Pl with her peers, including Doris Lusk (1916-1990). She and her community of artist friends participated in many favourably reviewed exhibitions at the Otago Art Society and the Dunedin and Wellington Sketch Clubs. Human figures don’t often feature in her paintings, belying how socially active her art practice was.
As well as the still-life genre, Hamblett also produced landscapes. She made trips to places such as Mapua, Pangatotara, Waimate, Cromwell and St Bathans either on holiday with friends or to earn money but these rural stays provided opportunities to make art as well, en plain air. One Hamblett landscape in the Hocken’s collection is the small, hand-coloured linocut Blue Lake, St Bathans (c.1939), delicately printed on tissue paper.
While A Constant Flow of Light makes plain Colin’s artistic curiosity, Anne possessed something similar. Although her energy was often focused on family life, aspects of her artistic endeavours are thankfully represented in the Hocken’s collections.
"Colin McCahon: A Constant Flow of Light" runs until March 6 at Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, 90 Anzac Ave. The Hocken is open Monday-Saturday from 10am until 5pm. Records of Anne’s artwork can be found on the Hakena catalogue, hakena.otago.ac.nz, by entering "Anne Hamblett" as the creator in the advanced search option. Records of some of her published work can be looked up on the University Library’s catalogue, www.otago.ac.nz/library/index.html, by entering "Anne McCahon" in the search field.
- Nick Austin is a collections assistant at Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena and was the 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow.