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HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
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HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)

Double Portrait

HOWARD HODGKIN (1932-2017)
Double Portrait
signed thrice, titled and dated 'Howard Hodgkin DOUBLE PORTRAIT 2000-2003' (on the reverse)
oil on wood
42 x 48in. (106.7 x 121.9cm.)
Executed in 2000-2003
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003.
D. Kunitz, 'The Lost Content', in Modern Painters, vol. 16, Winter 2003, p. 98.
D. Layder, Social and Personal Identity: Understanding Yourself, London 2004 (illustrated in colour on the cover).
M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, no. 404 (illustrated in colour, p. 369).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Howard Hodgkin, 2003-2004, p. 96 (illustrated in colour, p. 97). This exhibition later travelled to Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery.
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1992-2007, 2007, pp. 32 and 172, no. 14 (illustrated in colour, p. 108).
London, National Portrait Gallery, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, 2017, pp. 41, 161, 174 and 210 (illustrated in colour, p. 175).
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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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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

In Double Portrait (2000-2003), Howard Hodgkin creates a luminous picture of memory and feeling. A broad beam of sunflower yellow joins a slick of deep green at the painting’s heart. Haloed in cadmium orange, these strokes are met by a cherry-blossom flurry of dabbed pinks. This action takes place within a border of cool, translucent blue, itself framed by fiery saffron: the orange margin flares out further onto an actual wooden frame, which forms an integral part of the work. The frame’s profuse floral and foliate carving is lit up, as if the picture is glowing from within. Evoking – rather than depicting – the presence of two people, Double Portrait is one of Hodgkin’s ‘representational pictures of emotional states’ (H. Hodgkin, quoted in E. Juncosa (ed.), Writers on Howard Hodgkin, London 2006, p. 104). He paints in metaphor, transmuting specific subject matter into a distinctive language of pure colour and form. Traces of visual appearance – Hodgkin said Double Portrait’s yellow refers to the blonde hair of one of the sitters – are subsumed in variegated fields of abstract, expressive mark-making.

Completed when Hodgkin was past seventy, Double Portrait exemplifies the freedom and force of the artist’s later work. Debuting in his acclaimed show of new paintings at New York’s Gagosian Gallery in 2003, it was included four years later in Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1992-2007 at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and more recently in the major 2017 retrospective Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends at the National Portrait Gallery, London. ‘If this is a “last style”,’ wrote Alan Hollinghurst in 2004, ‘it is a dazzlingly comprehensive one, romantic, lyrical, playful, elegiac, from which one takes away an impression of the irresolvable richness of human emotion’ (A. Hollinghurst, ‘Howard Hodgkin’, 2004, in E. Juncosa (ed.), Writers on Howard Hodgkin, London 2006, p. 167).

Hodgkin claimed that Double Portrait represents ‘the end of a friendship’ (H. Hodgkin, quoted in M. Price (ed.), Howard Hodgkin: Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, p. 369). Whether the friendship in question was between Hodgkin and his subjects, or between the two sitters themselves, is left unsaid: the work’s story is ultimately private. Nonetheless, its painterly interplay between warm and cooler hues, and between broad, liquid strokes and swift dabs of pigment, conveys a complex sense of emotional drama and shifting affections. The painting seems no static image, but a living, moving thing, the heavy frame barely containing its emotive charge. ‘Hodgkin deals with quotidian subjects in small formats containing proportionally large-scale forms’, Daniel Kunitz has noted. ‘… Within, though again spilling over the edges of, the multiple borders in the affecting Double Portrait … a tall, dark, forest-green slash leans into a wider, fuller body of glowing, sunset orange. The “figures” here dominate, filling three quarters of the depicted space … The framing devices, the painted borders enclosing the subject in a sort of mise-en-abyme, concentrate the energy of a given work inwards, highlighting the importance, the pride of place, of the central subject, as the colours that overflow the picture, tinting the actual wooden frames, impart a broadening or out-flowing energy. The paintings breathe: they expand and contract’ (D. Kunitz, ‘The Lost Content’, Modern Painters, Winter 2003, p. 98).

Hodgkin’s unique use of painted frames is one of many striking originalities in his work, which falls straightforwardly into no artistic category. With support and paint forged into a unified whole, these brilliant, basically autobiographical paintings – and indeed the original feelings that sparked them – are transformed into autonomous, self-sufficient presences. The three-year gestation of Double Portrait is not unusual: Hodgkin would often work on a single picture for several years until it ‘returned’ the memory that sparked its creation, almost as if the painting were a magical object. There is a sense of Hodgkin fortifying his precious subject matter by bringing it into the world as solidly and carefully as possible. He 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). While buffering the contained emotion against the outside world, the frames – like stage curtains, or the doorway to a room – also serve a focal and compositional purpose, inviting the viewer into an intimate interior space. Far from claustrophobic, the effect of Double Portrait is expansive, vivid, dynamic: aglow with a lifetime’s emotional wisdom, the painting brims over with feeling.

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