Howard Hodgkin

Born Gordon Howard Eliott Hodgkin in Hammersmith 1932, Hodgkin came from a large family of high achievers. Cousin to Bloomsbury Group member Robert Fry, great-great-grandson of scientist Thomas Hodgkin (who gave his name to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), Young Howard was also related to the chemist and meteorologist Luke Howard (who gave names to the clouds), as well as collector Eliot Hodgkins and the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardener. His father, a passionate gardener, also had a gift of collecting awards, bagging the Royal Horticultural Society’s gold medal for the groaning family mantlepiece.

With such lineage perhaps it is no wonder that Howard Hodgkin is one of the most decorated abstract painters and printmakers of modern times, appointed a CBE in 1977, knighted in 1992, and awarded the Turner Prize in 1985. In 2000, he was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of Oxford and made a Companion of Honour in the 2003 New Year Honours for his services to art, becoming a Trustee of the National Gallery, he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize in Hamburg in 1997 and in 2014 won the first Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon award. It is an intimidating CV and a testament to Hodgkin’s ambition and determination when you consider that he decided to become a painter at the age of 5.

Hodgkin was educated in Long Island USA, before moving back to England to attend Eton and later Camberwell School of Art. Inspired by an art teacher, Hodgkin started buying Indian paintings as a teenager, after being introduced to the work at Eton. This was the start of a life-long passion for Indian painting and India in general. Hodgkin made multiple trips to India during his life and collected Indian painting avidly. The study of India entered his art in many forms, but most obviously in colour. Hailed as a master colourist Hodgkin’s works, whether viewed as abstract or figurative are renowned for their colourful vivacity. Although perhaps there was also an element of escapism to his travelling, “I think my main reason for going back to India”, he told David Sylvester in 1984, “is because it is somewhere else.”

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