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Howard Hodgkin
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Wikipedia About Howard Hodgkin

Sir Gordon Howard Eliot Hodgkin CH, CBE (born 6 August 1932) is a British painter and printmaker. His work is most often associated with abstraction. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Howard Hodgkin, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

When it opened in Minneapolis in 1965, the Walker Art Center’s London: The New Scene was the most significant exhibition of young British art to have been staged in America since the end of World War II. The favored metaphor was one of fog lifting over London to reveal a newly “swinging” art scene. The show was a hit, heralded by local headlines such as “Museum Can Be Rollicking Place to Enjoy,” while over the pond the London press tagged its artists the “Minneapolis 13.”1

Howard Hodgkin, thirty-two years old at the time, was selected to exhibit alongside other rising stars—including a twenty-seven-year-old David Hockney, a thirty-three-year-old Bridget Riley, and a thirty-two-year-old Peter Blake—in a show of remarkably prescient leaps of curatorial faith.2 The exhibition received a great deal of press coverage, though Hodgkin’s paintings were given scant attention. They could not be easily lumped with the suburban Pop sensibility that many of the artists exemplified (though some commentators tried), or with the geometric abstractions of other painters. Such a lack of press suited the artist just fine; in fact, he professed a hatred of being treated as “news.”3 Despite this critical reticence, his stature steadily grew. By the 1980s he was widely celebrated, representing his country at the 1984 Venice Biennale and receiving the second Turner Prize the following year.

Hodgkin’s paintings are concerned with direct interpersonal communication and a self-consciously old-fashioned necessity to conjure emotional states in paint. They are typified by often riotously saturated, almost fauvist colors with paint distributed from impasto blobs to wide fluid veils. Gestures often spill out onto the frames as if their exuberance couldn’t be contained. Though less explicit in the 1964 Walker-owned work Large Portrait (featured in London: The New Scene), the titles of his works frequently allude to the people or exotic places that triggered them. Going for a Walk with Andrew (1995–1998) is more typical of this trait, as the painting attempts to take on the condition of memory. As the artist describes, “The subjects of most of my work are the relationships between various nameable individual human beings in their surroundings… . I have got to find a two-dimensional equivalent to my three-dimensional experience.”4 The Andrew of the title is most likely British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, the presenter of the BBC television series Renaissance, whose monograph on Hodgkin was published in 1994.5

  1. See, for example, Martin Friedman, “Young London: The Fog Lifts on a New Scene,” New York Times, December 20, 1964. Also, “Museum Can Be Rollicking Place to Enjoy,” Minneapolis Star, February 12, 1965, and “Newsight,” Daily Mail (London), February 26, 1965.

  2. The exhibition, curated by Martin Friedman, included Blake, Bernard Cohen, Harold Cohen, Robyn Denny, Hockney, Hodgkin, Allen Jones, Phillip King, Jeremy Moon, Riley, Richard Smith, Joe Tilson, and William Tucker. London: The New Scene opened at the Walker before touring to Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle, Vancouver, and Toronto. Thirty years later, the 1995 Walker-organized show “Brilliant!” New Art from London, curated by Richard Flood, pulled off a similar feat by introducing another generation of young British artists to American audiences.

  3. Hodgkin, interview by art historian Edward Lucie-Smith, undated transcript (Walker Art Center Archives).

  4. Ibid.

  5. Andrew Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994).

Andrews, Max. “Howard Hodgkin.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

© 2005 Walker Art Center