T02134 INTERIOR OF A MUSEUM 1956–9
Oil on plywood, 40 × 50 (101.6 × 127.1)
Purchased from Kasmin Ltd. (Knapping Fund) 1977
Exh: London Group, R.B.A. Galleries, January–February 1960 (140); Howard Hodgkin, Forty-five paintings 1949–75, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, March–April 1976 (5, repr. in colour), and tour to London (Serpentine Gallery, May), Leigh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Aberdeen and Sheffield, to October 1976.
Lit: Richard Morphet, introduction to catalogue of 1976 retrospective exhibition cited above, pp.9–10.
Howard Hodgkin wrote (letter of 2 May 1978) ‘I have always been fascinated by the relation of people to things and in museums would often look through the glass cases at people looking in at the objects from the other side’.
In conversation in 1975 (written account confirmed by him in 1978), he told the compiler that ‘Interior of a Museum’ represents figures seen in front of, beside and behind [through] a glass case in the British Museum containing ancient Greek painted pots, suggesting an equivalence between ancient two-dimensional images of faces painted on the pots and the real contemporary faces seen with them simultaneously. The pink bands at the right recall the shelves of the display case. To the left of the case is Hodgkin's wife Julia and in front of it, in profile, finger in mouth, an unknown man. The central pot on the top row is flanked by two living faces, at the left that of a man and at the right (with hair in top-knot) that of Marie-Christine Trienen, a French art student at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham whose enormous paintings of simplified figures were influential there in the 1950s.
The British Museum confirmed Howard Hodgkin's suggestion that the pots on which some of the images in this work are based will have been seen on display in the King Edward VII Gallery of the museum. It is not possible positively to correlate any of the pot images in this work with particular pots in the British Museum, but the Tate Gallery has British Museum reference numbers of certain pots that are likely to have been on display in that room in or shortly before 1956 and which are not inconsistent with the picture's general indications.
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979