Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE JEREMY LANCASTER COLLECTION
Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)

Like an Open Book

Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)
Like an Open Book
signed twice, titled and dated 'Howard Hodgkin-Like an open book Howard Hodgkin 1989-90' (on the reverse)
oil on wood
20 ½ x 24 ¾in. (52 x 63cm.)
Executed in 1989-1990
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1990.
W. Crozier, 'Howard Hodgkin: The Artist's Eye', in Modern Painters, vol. 3, Winter 1990-1991, p. 21.
A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 1994, pp. 146 and 190 (illustrated in colour, p. 144).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin Paintings, London 1999, no. 245 (illustrated, p. 194).
W. Dickhoff, 'Howard Hodgkin: The Carnal Presence of Emotion', in After Nihilism: Essays on Contemporary Art, Cambridge 2000 (illustrated, p. 60).
A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 2001, pp. 146 and 229 (illustrated in colour, p. 144).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, London 2006, no. 245 (illustrated in colour, p. 255).
Cologne, Galerie Michael Werner, Howard Hodgkin: Recent Paintings, 1990, no. 11 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Knoedler & Company.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology (on long term loan since 2002).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Acquired the year it was made by Jeremy Lancaster – whose group of works by Howard Hodgkin formed the core of his remarkable collection of twentieth-century art, and spanned seven decades of the artist’s career – Like an Open Book (1989-90) is a painting that transforms memory into a blazing, jewel-like object. For more than twenty years, Lancaster lent the painting first to the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and subsequently to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Its heavy wooden frame is brushed with lilac. A phosphorescent green form, aglow with pale yellow, gleams out from the centre’s shadowy embers of red, black and blue, and flashes over the frame’s dark lower edge. The painting is as condensed as a haiku, its small scale resounding with lyrical impact. Luminous, evocative and enigmatic, it playfully belies its name, as Andrew Graham-Dixon has observed. ‘The self-evidence that the painting’s title promises turns out to be an obscurity. The picture is really a closed book, or perhaps, rather, it is a book written in a foreign language’ (A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 1994, p. 146). Hodgkin distils reminiscence into a deeply personal picture that is universal in its appeal, and immediately, wordlessly eloquent in its beauty.

By enshrining his works in painted frames, Hodgkin sought to make them into autonomous, self-sufficient presences. While they may echo figures, architectural settings, or even the features of a landscape, the elements of his compositions always recede into a theatre of pure colour and form. These are abstracted pictures of memory, melding sensory impressions with elegiac feeling. ‘I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances’, he explained. ‘I paint representational pictures of emotional states’ (H. Hodgkin, quoted in E. Juncosa (ed.), Writers on Howard Hodgkin, London 2006, p. 104). While some of his titles name people or places, Like an Open Book omits any sense of event. We witness an outpouring of emotion in a vocabulary entirely Hodgkin’s own, tethered to no specific reading. The painting’s richly felt radiance, its sense of devotion, is its only certainty. These vivid, dynamic hues might picture a human relationship, a remembered room, a complexity of longing or love. The essential privacy of Hodgkin’s work is not at odds with its emotive power. ‘Obviously, my language of forms has far more than a physical purpose,’ he once said. ‘Alone in my studio, working on my pictures, more than anything, I long to share my feelings’ (H. Hodgkin, London, 13 March 1995, in J. Elderfield and H. Hodgkin, ‘An Exchange’, in Howard Hodgkin Paintings, London 1995, p. 80).

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