Howard Hodgkin Undertones of War

Howard Hodgkin
Undertones of War 2001–3

Private collection

I’ve found [making large paintings] a very difficult thing to learn how to do and although I’ve been trying to paint larger pictures for a long time, I’ve only come near to solving it in the last ten years or so.

During the past decade Hodgkin has embarked on an ambitious period of productivity. The monumentalUndertones of War 2001–3 is his most sombre picture to date, with its shadowy palette surrounded by a heavily hinged and knotted wooden frame. The emphatic brushwork reveals an urgency rarely seen in his earlier work.

Howard Hodgkin Come into the Garden Maud 2000-3

Howard Hodgkin
Come into the Garden Maud 2000–3

Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, London, New York, Los Angeles

In Come into the Garden, ‘Maud’ 2000–3 Hodgkin leaves substantial areas of plywood exposed. Inspired by the poet Tennyson’s Maud, the animated splodges of colour suggest the rose and lily blossoms which call to the poem’s lovesick narrator. Here Hodgkin creates a marked tension between the heavy wood support and the delicate emotion depicted.

Howard Hodgkin A Rainbow

Howard Hodgkin
A Rainbow 2004

Private collection

In recent works such as A Rainbow 2004, Hodgkin expands and builds upon his trademark visual vocabulary as he continues to find new means of expression. In the artist’s own words, ‘The paramount difficulty is to make the picture into as finite and solid an object as possible in physical terms and to include nothing irrelevant or confusing. Ideally they should be like memorials.’ (1967)