Howard Hodgkin, the British abstract painter and printmaker, 1932–2017

Howard Hodgkin, a giant of British art from the 1970s onwards, has died. Tate director Nicholas Serota described Hodgkin in a statement as ‘one of the great artists and colourists of his generation’. His paintings and prints are held by most major museums including Tate, London; British Museum, London; Metropolitan Museum, New York; MoMA, New York and Philadelphia Museum of Art. He also designed sets and costumes for several opera and ballet productions, most recently Layla and Majnun performed by the Mark Morris Dance company in 2016.

The artist’s first solo show was in London in 1962 having studied at Camberwell School of Art between 1949–50, followed by the Bath Academy of Art between 1950–54. It was not until the 1970s however that Hodgkin introduced the bright palette to the abstract paintings he became known for. Writing in the Financial Times at the time of the artist’s 2006 retrospective at Tate Britain, Jackie Wullschlager notes ‘Which other English painter coming of age in the 1960s so perfectly embodies the vibrant, expressive optimism of that decade while continuing to debate the possibilities, dilemmas, paths and culs-de-sac of European modernism? Freud, Auerbach and Rego were born abroad, Hockney took essential impetus from America, pop-figurative friends such as Peter Blake and Patrick Caulfield did not stay the course with Hodgkin’s mix of lucid consistency and inventiveness. That is why we cannot stop talking about him.’

Hodgkin was born in Hammersmith, West London, but as a child was evacuated to America during the war. His father worked for Imperial Chemical Industries and his mother came from a Lancashire family of lawyers. His great-great-grandfather, Thomas Hodgkin, discovered the glandular disease later called Hodgkin’s Disease. In 1983, having previously been married, and overcoming a bout of depression, he settled down with the music writer Antony Peattie. In 1984 Hodgkin represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, in 1985 won the Turner Prize, was knighted in 1992 and made a Companion of Honour in 2002.

9 March 2017

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