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Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)
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Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)

Roger and Margaret Coleman

Details
Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017)
Roger and Margaret Coleman
signed, inscribed and dated 'HOWARD/HODGKIN/Roger &/Margaret/Coleman/1962' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
42 x 50 in. (107 x 127 cm.)
Provenance
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, where purchased by Peter Cochrane.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 22 June 2006, lot 169, where purchased by the present owner.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Howard Hodgkin, London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, 1962, n.p., no. 8, illustrated.
'Exhibitions', das kunstwerk the work of art, XVII, Baden-Baden, 5 November 1963, n.p., illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Nieuwe Realisten, The Hague, Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1964, pp. 16-17, no. 23, illustrated.
H. Read, Contemporary British Art, Harmondsworth, 1964, pl. 61b.
J. McEwen, ‘Four British Painters’ Artforum, Vol. 17, December 1978, pp. 53, 55, illustrated.
M. Auping, J. Elderfield, S. Sontag and M. Price, Howard Hodgkin Paintings, London, 1995, p. 145, no. 37, illustrated.
M. Price, Howard Hodgkin The Complete Paintings Catalogue Raisonné, London, 2006, p. 64, no. 37, illustrated.
P. Moorhouse, exhibition catalogue, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, London, National Portrait Gallery, 2017, p. 195.
Exhibited
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Howard Hodgkin, October - November 1962, no. 8.
The Hague, Haags Gemeentemuseum, Nieuwe Realisten, June - August 1964, no. 23.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, etc…, February - March 1965, no. 66.
London, Barbican Art Gallery, The Sixties Art Scene in London, March - June 1993, no. 127.
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

Roger and Margaret Coleman is a vibrant portrait of art critic Roger Coleman and his first wife Margaret. Painted in 1962 and exhibited at Hodgkin’s first solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons in October the same year, this work reflects the artist’s movement away from figurative portraiture, towards the more abstracted, expressive portraits that define his mature style.

Hodgkin’s approach to portraiture developed extensively over his career. Whereas earlier portraits such as Untitled (Reclining Woman) (1950) encompass the graphic lines and solid colours of comic book art to capture his sitters’ likeness, by 1962 his portraits 'gravitated increasingly to expressive symbolism' becoming progressively abstracted, as Hodgkin explored connections between colour and emotion; using paint to convey feelings and memories rather than replicating visual reality (see P. Moorhouse, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends, London, 2017, p. 21).

Roger and Margaret Coleman is a wonderful example of metamorphosis in Hodgkin’s oeuvre; a mid-point between earlier figurative representations and entirely abstracted portraits like Mr and Mrs James Kirkman (1980-84). Although the picture still contains obvious figurative references to traditional portraiture (Roger Colman occupies the centre front, facing the viewer in a smart dinner jacket and white shirt, his nose humorously highlighted with red) the figure of Margaret Coleman moves the work further away from the representational. Hodgkin wanted 'to paint pictures where people didn’t care what anything was, because they were so enveloped by them' (H. Hodgkin, quoted in A. Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London, 2001, p. 214). The figure of Margaret, therefore, sitting behind her husband on a low green stool, is picked out through the solid burgundy of her dress and contrasting cobalt stockings, yet in a subtle surreal twist, her head is replaced with concentric circles, a nod to Hodgkin’s waning commitment to figurative representation.

One of the most striking elements of this work is the bold use of colour; the strong blocks of blue, black, green and red stand out against the neutral ground. However, the application - firm and impatient brush strokes with modest variations in tone - contributes to compositional flatness, allowing his sitters to blend into their ambiguous surroundings. This experiment with simplification is reminiscent of Matisse, whose work Hodgkin encountered at The Museum of Modern Art when he was evacuated to New York during the Second World War. Like Matisse, Hodgkin understood the expressiveness of colour. Hodgkin would often not finish a painting until months or even years later, allowing time to warp the emotional ethos of the subject. The feelings that colours represent are therefore a more important record than the actual likeness of his subjects. By purposefully flattening the scene, blending the subjects with their ambiguous background, Hodgkin has attempted to distill his recollection into a tangible, painted presence: a physical manifestation of his memories. Roger and Margaret Coleman is not just a portrait of the couple, but a reflection of the relationship between sitter and artist.
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