Howard Hodgkin was one of the most celebrated artists of his generation; the pure pleasure evoked by his sensuous brushwork and usage of colour earned him almost universal appeal among critics and the art viewing public alike.
On the face of it an abstract artist, Hodgkin contrarily took great pleasure in defining his work as figurative. “I can’t control the viewer,” he once stated, “But I can tell them what the picture’s about, always. I’ve never painted an abstract picture in my life”. Rather, Hodgkin viewed his paintings as objects in themselves, and above all, representational depictions of specific memories.
In the work we are pleased to present here, he furnishes us with the clue to deciphering one such memory in its title, Untitled (After Lunch). He always tells us what the picture is about, he says, but the parenthesise suggest that this is done with a little reticence. There is much left to the viewer to interpret themselves in Hodgkin’s work, but he wants to help us in our accuracy as much as possible, lest me miss the very definite subject of the painting that he has intended.
This work was gifted by the wife of fellow painter Anthony Whishaw, after a visit to his studio in 1981. Many of Hodgkin’s paintings bear titles which allude to lunches, dinners, and social occasions spent in good company. This work is illustrative of his increasing preoccupation throughout the 1980s with producing work that evokes the range of emotions induced by social interaction.
Hodgkin’s work seems to encourage an art historical reading, with critics having written in the past of detecting traces of Turner, Hitchens, Matisse, and Seurat (as here) in his work. For his part, Hodgkin confessed to a reverence for the domestic works of the French artists Eduoard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, and again his title here invites us into the intimacy of a moment spent with peers.
The 80s were a decade of great recognition and career success for Hodgkin, who would go on to represent Britain in the Venice Biennale in 1984, and win the second ever Turner Prize Award in 1985.
We are delighted to present Hodgkin's Untitled (After Lunch), 1981 in our forthcoming Modern Made auction taking place live online on Friday 23rd October.