Born on 28 April 1869, in Dunedin, New Zealand, she received her first instruction at the Dunedin School of Art. Hodgkins first visited Cornwall in 1902, from March to June, after attending Norman GARSTIN's summer sketching classes in France in 1901. Her first sale at NAG was in April, 1902 of the painting A Busy Corner, Arles. These sketching tours she would attend again in 1902 and 1906, both in France, between her travelling widely to paint and exhibit. She had the distinction of being the first woman teacher at the Atelier Colarossi in Paris in 1910.
Her final visit to her native land of New Zealand was in 1912-13, following which she made St Ives in Cornwall her home from 1914 through to 1920. During these years her practice and style changed dramatically, moving from mainly Impressionistic watercolour paintings to large-scale oils with figurative content. Far less conservative an artist than those around her in the older Newlyn school, she was nevertheless friendly and easy in their company. Later, she produced strong work within the fields of still-life and portraiture, and was bracketed with the Neo-Romantics such as Nash, Sutherland, Moore and Piper. She was an original member of the Seven and Five Society, along with her friends Cedric MORRIS, Ben NICHOLSON and Winifred NICHOLSON, but resigned after 1924 when it renamed itself the Seven&Five Abstract Group.
Her many exhibitions and shows took her around Europe and Britain, travelling and joining up with friends in far-flung places, returning to Cornwall for two months in 1931-2, and another month in 1934.
Amongst her closest friends were Garstin (whom she adored, as did her friend Dorothy RICHMOND, also from New Zealand) and Moffat LINDNER in particular, and her admiration of the work of Elizabeth FORBES was especially strong. It was from a letter written home to her mother about Forbes's paintings hanging at NAG that the title of Elizabeth's biography, Singing from the Walls, was chosen. Later, much after Elizabeth's demise, Frances stayed again in Newlyn at the home of a friend Cedric MORRIS.
An extraordinary artist by any judgement, and highly regarded as amongst New Zealand's finest, she died at Herrison House (a psychiatric hospital) near Dorchester, Dorset in England on 13 May 1947. A good photo likeness of her in older age, when she lived in Dorset, is to be found in the frontpiece of the Exhibition catalogue for Frances Hodgkins: Leitmotif a show at Auckland Art Gallery which ran from 2005-2006.