Books for the Paris Review is a print made to raise money for the New York cultural journal, The Paris Review. It was published in an edition of ten and printed by Jack Shirreff (born 1943) at the 107 Workshop, near Bath in England. The Tate copy is number six in the edition. Hodgkin has made prints since the early 1960s and he and Shirreff first worked together in 1990, when he produced a number of prints inspired by exotic travel and travel posters (Tate P20058-P20062). He worked with Shireff again in 1995, producing an edition of prints entitled Venetian Views (Tate P20166-P20169). They developed a close working relationship, Shireff printing and hand-colouring all these editions.
Books for the Paris Review is a small, brightly coloured image that evokes the gestural immediacy of Hodgkin's gem-like paintings. It combines lift-ground aquatint and carborundum, with hand-colouring by Shireff. Hodgkin has used an assistant to hand-colour his prints since the late 1970s when he worked on Nick 1977 (Tate P77044) with Maurice Payne at Petersburg Press. Hand-colouring has since become an integral aspect of the artist's print-making technique. The process of using a 'second' hand to colour the printed image was partly suggested by the art historian, Herbert Read (1893-1968). Hodgkin remembers having read of the anonymous decorators of pottery, and the memory influenced his printing practice. However, he no longer recollects the source of Read's description. According to Hodgkin, the artist is often tempted to alter an image through successive reinterpretations. In contrast, an assistant can be employed, almost as a mechanical tool, to duplicate marks. The 'original' of such hand-repeated marks is always made by an assistant under very close supervision by the artist. (All references from unpublished Tate interview.)
Books for the Paris Review was printed in black and grey from four plates and hand-coloured in red, blue and green by Shireff under Hodgkin's guidance. Swirling, brush-like marks printed in black are overlaid by a rectangular, frame-like veil of red paint. The black printed marks, suggestive of wood grain, waves or peacock feathers, emerge clearly through the translucent wash of red paint. Inside the red frame are two bold, wide brush strokes, one of which is a vibrant blue and the other a bright green. The red frame parallels the characteristic frame-within-a-picture device of Hodgkin's paintings where the actual frame is often incorporated pictorially.
The print has a layered, gestural quality that evokes the slow accretion of layers characteristic of the paintings. This results from Hodgkin's experimental manipulation of the printing processes in conjunction with hand-colouring. He used lift-ground aquatint to create the spontaneous, painterly printed marks that form the base of the image. The process enabled him to paint directly onto the plate. When the plate was printed, the ink mirrored the original painted mark. Hodgkin also used carborundum, a printing technique that gives the image a pitted, textured quality. The technique involves applying, with brush or hand, a stodgy carborundum paste that dries on the plate. When inked and printed the carborundum partly embosses the paper, giving the print a relief-like character.
Unlike many of Hodgkin's prints and paintings, the title of the work does not allude to aspects of the artist's daily life: a place visited, a meal eaten, a friend observed, a mood experienced or a moment recalled. It refers instead to the magazine it was intended to raise money for. However, it is probable that, like the rest of his work, the inspiration for the image came from the memory of a personal experience, event or moment in time that Hodgkin has imaginatively transformed.
Howard Hodgkin: Small Prints, exhibition catalogue, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 2001, reproduced (colour) p.6
Howard Hodgkin: Venetian Views 1995, exhibition catalogue, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1995
Howard Hodgkin: Prints 1977-1983, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1985