The Pack, 1927

Harold Frederick Weaver Hawkins

English ( b1893 - d.1977 )

The Pack, 1927

  • Watercolour & pencil
  • Monogram & dated 1927 lower left

Image size 13.2 inches x 17.9 inches ( 33.5cm x 45.5cm )
Frame size 20.3 inches x 25 inches ( 51.5cm x 63.5cm )

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Weaver Hawkins was an accomplished artist, printmaker and etcher, known for his strength of character and bold social statements, expressed through his art.

He was born in Sydenham, London, on 28th August 1893. As the eldest of five sons he shared a paternal role with his father after his parents separated when he was a young child. He attended Dulwich College, where he won the art prize every year, then studied at the Camberwell School of Arts in London from 1910-14.

He intended to become a teacher, but enlisted in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles in 1914 in anticipation of war. He was sent to the Western Front during the First World War and received terrible injuries at Gommecourt, France. He crawled back to safety for two days and subsequently underwent twenty operations to save his arms from amputation. Though his arms were saved he lost the use of his right arm completely and never regained full strength in his left. After his discharge from the army in 1919, he studied at the Bristol Art School and then at the Westminster School of Art from 1919 to 1922. He taught himself to paint with his left hand, and continued his career, etching at the Royal Cambrian Academy 1921-22.

In 1923 Weaver Hawkins held his first solo exhibition and his work was also displayed in the Royal Academy. He married too that year, to Irene Williams, who was also an artist. For most of the next ten years they lived by the Mediterranean, including St. Tropez. On returning to England in 1926 he disliked the press notices, which emphasized his disability, and went to Malta for three years. There, he adopted the painting pseudonym of “Raokin” and signed his works as such, although he later reverted to Weaver Hawkins.

The couple then travelled extensively throughout Europe and North Africa, Tahiti and New Zealand and eventually settled in Australia in 1935, where they brought up their three daughters. During the 1930s Hawkins developed his modernist style – with stylized figures, blocks of flat colour, simplified geometric forms and unnatural perspectives.

In Australia the subjects of Hawkins’ work also became more tender and domestic. Morris West met him there and recalled “My immediate impression was of a quite extraordinary male beauty – fine-boned, bearded visage, with clear untroubled eyes and a ready smile…a man at peace with himself and his world.”

Weaver Hawkins developed a significant public profile in the Sydney art world from the 1940s, and during his lifetime held eight solo shows and participated in 250 group exhibitions. Between 1941-1972 he exhibited with the Contemporary Art Society of Australia and the Sydney Printmakers. He had solo exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries and elsewhere. In 1953 he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal. His work entered a few public collections and won minor prizes from 1950 but he was perhaps not assessed as a major artist until after a 1976 retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He died in Sydney the following year.

His works are held today by the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Queensland Art Galleries, as well as The City Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol, the National Gallery in Valletta, Malta, and the collection of the First National Bank of Chicago.

Hawkins’ style developed over the years, but he never drew back from expressing his views on political and social matters – some of his work was way ahead of its time. He said, “We are rationalists, socialists and nonconformists”. He was a strong and independently minded man, who hoped to make the world a better place, saying, “I hold that it is possible to create beauty with the intellect”

At first glance this particular picture, painted in England in 1927, might appear to be a classic hunting scene, but look closely and you will notice that all the riders have rat’s tails – this is an outstanding piece of social commentary.