Howard Hodgkin, High Tide (2012) Photo Nicolas Brasseur, Toulouse International Art Festival, 2013 ©Le Printemps de septembre
After Vuillard, 1996-2002. Nicolas Brasseur, Toulouse International Art Festival, 2013.
Howard Hodgkin, High Tide and Low Tide, 2012. Photo Nicolas Brasseur, Toulouse International Art Festival, 2013 ©Le Printemps de septembre
Howard Hodgkin, Memories, 1997-1999. Photo Nicolas Brasseur, Toulouse International Art Festival, 2013, ©Le Printemps de septembre
Howard Hodgkin, Memoirs, 1949. Gouache on wood, 22 x 25 cm. © Howard Hodgkin.
Howard Hodgkin, Old Sky, 1996-1997. Oil on wood, 39 x 44 cm. Private collection, London. © Howard Hodgkin
Howard Hodgkin, After visiting David Hockney (second version) 1991-1992. Oil on wood, 49 x 62 cm. Private collection, London. © Howard Hodgkin.
The Fondation Bemberg is hosting the first exhibition of Howard Hodgkin’s work to be held in France for over twenty years. A new selection of some thirty paintings conveys the range of his work, from his first pictures to the most recent pieces. The choice of venue, the Hôtel Assézat, home to a rich collection of European paintings from the 15th to the 20th century, resonates with Hodgkin’s own interest in French painting. In addition to the hanging of his works in a dedicated space, four other canvases will, at the artist’s request, be shown in two other rooms housing, respectively major Italian works from the 18th century and a unique set of paintings by Pierre Bonnard.
From the stylised scenes of the 1950s and 60s to the more spontaneous and almost totally abstract images painted after 1970, the work of Howard Hodgkin seems to be constantly developing, and yet the artist’s vocabulary can be found, fully developed, in his first works. For example, Memoirs, painted in 1949, is a gouache in bright colours executed on wood whose medium, but also title and subject (a conversation in an apartment) announces the work to come. The titles of Hodgkin’s evoke encounters, moments and places. His memories spread over the wooden panels which he uses instead of canvases, and also over the frames. they mix and merge like elements in a liquid collage. Colour is the vehicle of fleeting impressions (memories of a day) or more lyrical sensations (a bright sunset) which open up a vista into the artist’s thoughts.
Hodgkin explains that “I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations.” While Hodgkin’s work certainly has a clear literary dimension, it nevertheless makes full use of the specific language of painting. Hodgkin is a matchless colourist. For him there is a connection between his fellow countrymen’s modest taste for bright colours and the restraint that, as he sees it, is inherent to English culture. It is this logic of equivalence that needs to be reversed in order to complement the artist’s own limpid reading of his work with a more purely visual appreciation in which feelings are placed in the service of colour.
Howard Hodgkin was born in 1932 in London, where he lives and works. A member of the board of the Tate (from 1970 to 1976) and the National Gallery of London (1978 to 1985), occupant of the English Pavilion at the 1984 Venice Biennale, winner of the Turner Prize in 1985, knighted in 1992, Howard Hodgkin’s reputation is built on a career of more than forty years. He is a major figure in England and beyond, and especially the United States, where his work is held in many collections.