HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)

The Spectator

Details
HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
The Spectator
signed twice, titled and dated 'The Spectator Howard Hodgkin 1984-1987 Howard Hodgkin' (on the reverse)
oil on wood
17 3/4 x 19 5/8in. (45 x 49.8cm.)
Executed in 1984-1987
Provenance
The Whitechapel Auction, Sotheby's London, 1 July 1987, lot 739 (donated by the artist).
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
Å. Thorkildsen, 'En samtale med Howard Hodgkin', in Kunst og kultur, vol. 70, no. 4, 1987, p. 221 (installation view with the artist illustrated, p. 220).
C. Gleadell, 'The Art Market, Auction Trends in the Eighties', in Art International, vol. 9, Winter 1989 (illustrated in colour, p. 72).
A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 1994, pp. 30 and 188, with incorrect dimensions (illustrated in colour, p. 31).
J. Pitman, 'Showing his Colours', in The Times Magazine, 4 November 1995 (illustrated in colour, p. 11).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin Paintings, London 1995, pp. 23-24, no. 215, with incorrect dimensions (illustrated in colour, p. 91; illustrated, p. 187).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, no. 215 (illustrated in colour, p. 228).
M. Hudson, 'A wonderful send-off for the man who made colour sing from the canvas - Howard Hodgkin, National Portrait Gallery, review', in The Telegraph, 22 March 2017 (detail illustrated in colour).
Exhibited
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Howard Hodgkin: Paintings, 1975-1995, 1995-1996. This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen.
London, National Portrait Gallery, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, 2017, p. 148 (illustrated in colour, p. 149).
London, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Howard Hodgkin: Memories, 2020.
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.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

A rare and definitive work within Howard Hodgkin’s oeuvre, The Spectator is a majestic self-portrait completed at a landmark moment in his career. Originally titled Portrait of the Artist, it is less a depiction of Hodgkin’s likeness than a portrait of his presence: an image of his artistry and a catalogue of his techniques. Its surface is alive with the marks, gestures and colours that lay at the heart of his practice. Central flares of orange, red and peach burst outwards, surrounded by luminous veils of blue. Dabs of amber, gold and green disperse across the picture’s wooden frame, the latter chiming with the iconic eau de nil walls of Hodgkin’s exhibition at the 1984 Venice Biennale. Begun that year, the work stems from a period of personal and professional joy, coinciding with the dawn of the artist’s relationship with his partner Anthony Peattie and his receipt of the 1985 Turner Prize. Acquired shortly after its completion in 1987, it featured in Hodgkin’s major touring retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1995, as well as his celebrated retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2017.

Explicit self-portraits were elusive within Hodgkin’s practice. Very few referred to himself in their titles: among them were Portrait of the Artist (1984-1987), completed alongside the present work, and his last major painting Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music (2011-2016). At the same time, however, all of Hodgkin’s works were deeply self-reflective. They were paintings of memory, thought and feeling, each extracted over periods of months and years from the depths of the artist’s psyche. Their abstract colours and gestures dramatised the way that private recollections existed in his mind’s eye, saturated with shifting light and movement. Hodgkin’s dissolution of the boundary between frame and painting was intimately connected to this process. Speaking in 1984, he explained that ‘the more evanescent the emotion I want to convey, the thicker the panel, the heavier the framing, the more elaborate the border, so that this delicate thing will remain protected and intact’ (H. Hodgkin, quoted in P. Kinmonth, ‘Howard Hodgkin’, Vogue, June 1984).

Artists throughout history—from Rembrandt to Hockney—painted themselves at work. Here, Hodgkin positions himself as a witness to his own painterly language. The curator Paul Moorhouse wrote that ‘Hodgkin’s deepening engagement with representing his own emotional and sensory experience took a distinctive turn with this painting … [it] is a memorial to the artist’s process. While at work, he is an agent but also a spectator to his creative actions, involving deliberation, decision-making and the progressive application of paint’ (P. Moorhouse, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, exh. cat. National Portrait Gallery, London 2017, p. 148). Indeed, several years earlier, Hodgkin had spoken of his desire to experience his own works as a viewer. ‘I once described finishing a painting to somebody as where … the picture is somewhere hovering in mid-air between myself and the spectator’, he explained, ‘so that it looks as strange or as interesting or whatever to me as it does to any other spectator’ (H. Hodgkin, quoted in conversation with D. Sylvester, 1982).

Completed over the course of three years, The Spectator spans one of the most important periods in Hodgkin’s career. His solo exhibition at Venice toured widely throughout America and Europe, propelling him onto the international stage. The poet Christopher Reid wrote that the paintings created during this time represented ‘the peak of his achievement’ (C. Reid, ‘Howard Hodgkin: When all is done, not said’, TLS, 30 June 2006). At the same time, the mid-1980s marked another milestone for Hodgkin. Having left his wife in 1978, the artist’s romantic liaison with Peattie—a music writer—would eventually blossom into a lifelong relationship. Strains of sensual awakening course through the paintings of this period, captured in languid gestures and flushed, heightened colours. Here, Hodgkin’s brushstrokes are drawn into an intimately-choreographed dance, light undulating across the peaks and troughs of impasto. Aglow with the thrills of art and love, The Spectator sings of a golden moment: a time in which both Hodgkin, and his paintings, fell under the spell of new eyes.

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