The English painter Sir Howard Hodgkin has died in London aged 84. Howard was born 6 August in 1932 in Hammersmith, London. He was evacuated with mother and older sister, to the US where they lived on Long Island. He first decided he wanted to become an artist aged five and was inspired by seeing the works Stuart Davis, Matisse and Picasso at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art. He was educated at Eton College and then at Bryanston School in Dorset. However, Hodgkin had decided on a career in art in early childhood and ran away from school to pursue this. He studied at the Camberwell Art School and later at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham.
“No other British painter, of his generation or later could rival him” – Edward Lucie-Smith
The art critic Edward Lucie-Smith spoke to Artlyst about his work, “Howard Hodgkin was in many ways a holdout for the powers of old-fashioned paint-on-a-surface. I first knew him, not directly through his art, but through our mutual interest in Indian miniature painting. Then I knew him from inventive, quite small paintings that seemed to be influenced by the French Nabis painters, particularly Vuillard. There was one – I never knew what its proper title – nicknamed ‘Bruce Chatwin Turning Away from His Guests’. The subject was just recognisable, standing in front of a Japanese screen. Then the paintings became, at least to the casual glance, entirely abstract. However, a new show, due to open at the National portrait Gallery a fortnight from now, reverts to the idea of paintings as representations of people, or at least of their essences. Quasi-abstract or quasi-figurative, essences were what his art was about. No other British painter, of his generation or later could rival him in seeking these out.”
Sir Howard won the Turner Prize in 1985 and represented the UK at the Venice Biennale the previous year. His work is held by major galleries and museums around the world, including the British Museum, Tate, and MoMA in New York. Two exhibitions of his work are opening in the UK in the coming months. The Royal College of Art described Sir Howard as “one of the painters of our generation – who gave us emotion in the form of colour.
Sir Nicholas Serota the departing Director of Tate and the soon to be Chairman of Arts Council England said: “His, intense paintings were infused with his love and understanding of late 19th-Century French painting, especially Degas, Vuillard and Bonnard, and by his feeling for the heat and colours of India, which he visited on many occasions.” He added, “His characteristic subject, the memory of a meeting or a conversation with a friend, resulted in paintings that radiate the emotions of life: love, anger, vanity, beauty and companionship.” Sir Howard Hodgkin was an important artist whose use of colour and memory gave his largely abstract works great potency.He didn’t leave you looking, as some do, for the art in his art – it was there, on the canvas, to see and be seen: immediate and memorable.
His death comes days before the National Portrait Gallery opens the first exhibition of portraits by the artist. Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends features more than 50 works, dating from 1949 to the present. His portraits include those of fellow artists David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and RB Kitaj. Works he produced on his latest visit to India are to go on display at The Hepworth Wakefield in Howard Hodgkin: Painting India, which opens in June. Simon Wallis, director of the gallery, said the Hepworth was “deeply saddened” by news of his death, adding: “He was one of the most important artists of our time. “We are enormously grateful for Howard’s generosity with his time and his enthusiasm. We are proud to be realising an exhibition about the influence of India on his work, a place that he was so passionate about, and from which he drew such inspiration throughout his life.”
Last year, he told the Daily Telegraph being a painter was a “lonely occupation”, adding: “I don’t consider myself successful. Being well-known or having lots of exhibitions has nothing to do with being an artist – those things are just chance.”
Photo Portrait by Walia
A personal memory to follow by Paul Carter Robinson