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Howard Hodgkin (1932-2016)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN COLLECTION
Howard Hodgkin (1932-2016)

Venice Rain

Howard Hodgkin (1932-2016)
Venice Rain
signed twice, titled and dated ‘VENICE/RAIN 1984-1987 Howard Hodgkin’ (on the reverse)
oil on wood
23 x 23in. (58.4 x 58.4cm.)
Executed in 1984-1987
M. Knoedler & Co., New York.
L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California.
Private Collection, Los Angeles.
Adelson Galleries Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
W. Feaver, 'Whoosh in Venice', in the Observer, 4 September 1988, p. 38.
A. Graham-Dixon, 'Drawing on Life', in the Independent, 6 September 1988, p. 16.
R, Dorment, 'Howard's Way', in The Telegraph Weekend Magazine, 24 November 1990, pp. 50-55 (illustrated, p. 53).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London 1995, no. 218 (illustrated, p. 188).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings, Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, no. 218 (illustrated in colour, p. 229).
Venice, California, L.A. Louver Gallery, The British Picture, 1988, p. 65 (illustrated in colour, p. 37).
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, 1988: The World of Art Today, 1988, no. 25 (illustrated in colour, p. 73).
London, Waddington Galleries, Howard Hodgkin, 1988, p. 20 (illustrated in colour, p. 21). This exhibition later travelled to New York, M. Knoedler & Co..
Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Howard Hodgkin: Small Paintings, 1975-1989, 1990-1991, p. 60 (illustrated in colour, p. 61). This exhibition later travelled to Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundació Caixa de Pensions; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Dublin, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College.
New York, Adelson Galleries In., The Poetic Trace: Aspects of British Abstraction Since 1945, 1992, no. 17 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Howard Hodgkin, 2006-2007, p. 220, no. 34 (illustrated in colour, p. 110; illustrated in colour on the exhibition announcement card). This exhibition later travelled to London, Tate Britain and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘The series of paintings from the mid-to-late-1980s that are associated with Venice stands, I should say, as the peak of [Hodgkin’s] achievement’
–Christopher Reid

A resplendent work in sumptuous colours, simultaneously luxuriant and pensive, Venice Rain stems from a triumphant period in Howard Hodgkin’s career. Commenced while representing the United Kingdom at the XLI Venice Biennale, it coincides with his ascent to international acclaim: the next year he won the 1985 Turner Prize, and took his place as one of Britain’s foremost artists. ‘The series of paintings from the mid-to-late-1980s that are associated with Venice’, the poet Christopher Reid has written, ‘stands, I should say, as the peak of his achievement’ (C. Reid, ‘Howard Hodgkin: When all is done, not said’, TLS, 30 June 2006). An exemplary work from the cycle, Venice Rain is an encapsulation of a private memory. Although it uses gestural techniques redolent of those found in postwar abstract painting, the work is rooted in the artist’s lived reality, seeking to give form to personal experience and sensation. On its central panel, Hodgkin uses a series of horizontal bands of colour to evoke the titular Italian city during a rain shower. The warmer components of his palette — sultry reds and lustrous amber — are counterbalanced by purple-grey swashes, creating an acute interplay between swelter and humidity; one can sense the sun’s glow on Venice’s cobbles. Flashes of blue behind these polarities evoke the canal city’s wide skies and maritime location. This ephemeral vision works in counterpoint with the solidity of its bright yellow wooden support, a device favoured by Hodgkin for its material stability. Discussing his frames in 1984, Hodgkin observed 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). The romantic essence of the floating city, which saw the blossoming of his relationship with his life-partner Anthony Peattie, is set in Venice Rain’s vivid frame like a precious jewel. The work has been prominently exhibited, most notably as part of the artist’s major touring retrospective that travelled to Tate, London, in 2006.

Through choosing Venice as his subject, Hodgkin engaged with a traditional stretching from Canaletto’s 18th century views to Lucio Fontana’s enigmatic representations. By concentrating on the city’s luminescent qualities, his work draws particular parallels with those of fellow British painter J. W. M. Turner; indeed the amber band in Venice Rain resembles the iridescent coloration in paintings such as Turner’s Going to the Ball (San Martino) (1846). For Hodgkin, Venice was not simply the splendid historical city, but a notional entity that existed beyond the tactile world. ’Hodgkin’s Venice is not really a place, but rather a set of ideas, attitudes and feelings,’ says Andrew Graham-Dixon; ‘… it is a place where things are seen, dimly, through veils of dense obscuring atmosphere, where objects metamorphose into barely perceptible apparitions’ (A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 1994, p. 62).

Although Hodgkin depicts dour weather, a recurrent feature in his work of the period, Venice Rain is jubilant rather than melancholy, perhaps reflecting Hodgkin’s personal happiness at the dawn of his lifelong partnership with Peattie. Its central panel is ensconced in two frames, illuminated respectively in joyous shades of lime green and turmeric yellow. These colours, as well as those in the core image, slide and slither across each other with remarkably fluidity, binding the image and the framing device together and underscoring the boundaries between physical and pictorial space. Hodgkin was remarkable for the lengthy gestation periods of his works, which were meticulously painted and overpainted until he deemed the work complete. Accomplished across four years, Venice Rain is an eloquent demonstration of this contemplative approach, where Hodgkin could ruminate months at a time before making a single brushstroke. Symphonic in its play with colour and form, Venice Rain represents significant watermark in Hodgkin’s long and distinguished career, weaving reminiscence into a tangible and universal opus.

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