Indian Art Aficionado Howard Hodgkin’s Collection to Go Under the Hammer
British painter and collector Howard Hodgkin’s treasure of nearly 400 items would go up for auction at Sotheby’s upcoming sale during Oct. 20-24 in London. The collection includes Persian tiles, medallions, busts, sculptures, carpets and even books, including a rare edition of an Agatha Christie.
Hodgkin, who died earlier this year, began collecting as a 14-year-old boy. He was introduced to non-Western art by a teacher in Eton College, after which Indian paintings, especially those from 17th to 20th centuries, drew his fascination. His collection features Deccani and Pahari works, as well as the art of the Rajput and Mughal courts. He collected fragments, motifs, calligraphy, colors and textiles appearing on Indian tiles, textiles and rugs.
Hodgkin’s love for India began in 1964 when he spent his first night in the country, at the age of 32, sleeping on train bedding rolls on the platform of Mumbai Central station. He went on to spend countless nights in India over a span of 50 years, which was reflected in his art. The country, he claimed to many media outlets, fed his arts.
A review of his work in the Apollo Magazine said: “The subcontinent’s dramatic skies, lush greenery and everyday use of bright color in domestic architecture were a natural fit with Hodgkin’s developing style. The evolution of palm trees that can be traced in three paintings, from the heavily outlined geometric shapes of In a Hotel Garden (1974), through the seemingly rapid brushwork of In the Garden of the Bombay Museum (1978–82), to the few gestural strokes of Summer Rain (2002–13), give a sense of Hodgkin gradually relaxing under Indian influence.”
On his own paintings, he believed they were like Indian miniatures. However, he was not too impressed with Indian contemporary art despite curating the Tate’s ‘Six Indian Painters’ exhibition in 1982. The only exception was Bhupen Khakhar, a friend. Two of Bhupen’s paintings being showcased at the collection mark their friendship, where Hodgkins acted as mentor to one of India’s greatest contemporary artists. One of the paintings is The De-Luxe Tailors (1972), which Khakhar presented to Hodgkin.
Hodgkin’s India collection has been featured in museums around the world and shown at places like Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 2012. Hepworth Wakefield in Yorkshire, UK is currently running Howard Hodgkin: Painting in India until Oct. 8.
Hodgkin’s earlier modus operandi was to “soak up impressions” and return to London and paint it. For example, in 1970, the artist had written in his journal as though a note for his future painting: “To Secunderabad, Gin and lime at lunchtime. Rain in the afternoon with exactly matching Golconda skies – navy blue and white lined with receding pink.”
In his last years, despite ailing health, Hodgkin remained in India, painting in a studio in Mumbai. With encroaching age and infirmity, his work still had the eyes of an artist still discovering the world.
According to Painting India show curator Eleanor Clayton who spoke to Apollo Magazine, Hodgkin mapped a lot of the work in his head before committing to a composition. His assistant Andy would hold him up or build him extra-long brushes so that he could continue to work.
He died at the age of 84 on March 9, 2017 in London.