Hodgkin's paintings are generally small in scale, consciously conceived within the tradition of European easel painting. He painted extremely slowly, sometimes taking up to four years or more on one work. During this process the clarity of the original imagery was often obscured, and the spectator was invited to decipher the finished image as a kind of riddle.
In the 1970s Hodgkin's work shifted from a collaged geometric flatness to a more complex fluid patterning. He applied a restricted range of simple shapes and marks to a variety of moods: lyrical and poetic, or openly erotic, as in Goodbye to the Bay of Naples (1980–82; priv. col., see 1984 exh. cat., p. 67), with a belly and penis in the foreground set into a frame representing repeated eruptions from Mount Vesuvius.
Hodgkin consistently stressed the self-sufficiency of the marks and formal structure of his work. The oblique and even mystificatory imagery, however, also entailed a defence of intimate values in expressing the most fugitive, human and vulnerable sensations.
J. Reichardt, ed.: ‘On Figuration and the Narrative in Art', Studio Int., 172 (1966), pp. 140–44
Howard Hodgkin: Forty-five Paintings, 1949–1975 (exh. cat. by R. Morphet, ACGB, 1976)
T. Hyman: ‘Howard Hodgkin Interviewed by Timothy Hyman', Artscribe, 15 (1978), pp. 25–8
P. Gilmour: ‘Howard Hodgkin', Prt Colr Newslett. (March–April 1981), pp. 2–5
Howard Hodgkin, Prints, 1977 to 1983 (exh. cat., intro. R. Morphet; London, Tate, 1983)
Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings, 1973–84 (exh. cat. by J. McEwen and D. Sylvester, London, Whitechapel A.G., 1984)
A. Graham-Dixon: Howard Hodgkin (New York, 1994)
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings, 1975–1995 (exh. cat., Fort Worth, TX, Mod. A. Mus.)
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