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 Howard Eliot Hodgkin  (1932 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / United Kingdom      Known for: abstract painting and printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Howard Hodgkin was born in England into a prominent Quaker family of scientists, connoisseurs, collectors and classifiers, all mentally energetic. Among his forbears are the father of meteorology and the physician who described Hodgkin's disease. His father was a distinguished horticulturist. His cousin Margery Fry is a sister to Roger Fry.

Hodgkin spent part of his childhood on Long Island, a refugee from wartime London. In time he returned to England, attended art school at the Camberwell School for a year and then at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham for four years. By the time he was fifteen, Hodgkin had run away from five schools, giving as the reason that he wanted to be an artist. A psychiatrist persuaded his family to allow him to return to Long Island, New York. It was there that he first encountered old masters at the Metropolitan Museum and the great Modernists at Museum of Modern Art.

By the late 1950s Hodgkin had married a fellow student, Julia Lane and had two sons. He was teaching art, first at Charthouse and then at Bath Academy. He taught at the Chelsea School of Art until 1972, when he gave up teaching.

Hodgkin is a small and somewhat pear-shaped man, with ruddy cheeks and gray-white hair, with pale, almost metallic blue eyes. He paints gorgeously chromatic almost abstract accounts of his own life. Each is a rendition of a private moment of emotion, which was itself produced by a certain combination of light and space. He paints extremely slowly, or rather, repaints and repaints again, using wood instead of canvas.

He was forty-five before he had his fist major solo show in New York and fifty-two when his exhibition in the British Pavilion of the Venice Biennale brought him to the art world's attention. It is the French artist Vuillard who is the main historical presence in Hodgkin's work. His pictures may look abstract, but he does not consider himself an abstract artist. His paintings also have an unusual scale. In an age that favors the large work, they are modestly sized, yet seem quite large. He paints in passionate colors - dots and swirls and waves and zigzags and planes and streaks of color that spilled onto the frames.

The double-entry dates of the paintings indicated that they had taken three or more years to complete. Hodgkin does all his painting in England - in his Bloomsbury house opposite the British Museum or in his mill house in Wiltshire - but his professional life has taken place almost entirely in New York.

Written and submitted September 2004 by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:

Mark Stevens in Newsweek, December 2, 1984
Judith Higgins in Art News, Summer 1985
Harper's Bazaar, December 1994
Hodgkin's Sobtexts by Brooks Adams in "Art in America", May 1996

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