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Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Howard Hodgkin: Large Paintings, 1984-2002, 7 August-6 October 2002
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Howard Hodgkin Paintings, 8 September-20 December 2003
Berlin, Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Howard Hodgkin Paintings, 18 September-30 October, 2004
London, Tate Britain, Howard Hodgkin, 14 June-17 September 2006
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Howard Hodgkin, 18 November 2006-8 January 2007
Howard Hodgkin: Large Paintings, 1984-2002, exh. cat., Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 2002, no. 20 (illustrated in colour)
Howard Hodgkin, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2003 p. 45 (illustrated in colour)
Howard Hodgkin, exh. cat., Galerie Haas & Fuchs, Berlin, 2004, (illustrated in colour)
M. Price, Howard Hodgkin The Complete Paintings, London: Thames & Hudson, 2006, p. 360-61 (illustrated in colour)
Howard Hodgkin's Rhode Island was painted between 2000 and 2002 and is the largest work by the artist ever to come to auction. This is a splendid example of a painting from this important period of Hodgkin's career, as is reflected in its inclusion in the 2006 retrospective of his work held at Tate Britain, London, in 2006. Rhode Island perfectly demonstrates the bold and expressive use of colour and the novel relationship to the picture surface that has marked some of Hodgkin's greatest works.
Hodgkin has developed a unique painterly style over an extensive career spanning sixty years. Although always unique and instantly recognisable, his paintings have distinct periods, moving from a crisp Pop art style, to expressive colouristic, frame-inclusive paintings and on to the large scale works dating from the turn of the century to which Rhode Island belongs. Once Hodgkin's talent was recognised, he was elevated to the heights of his fellow Modern British painters, joining the likes of Auerbach, Bacon, Freud and Kossoff as one of the great champions of 20th Century British painting. This status was reinforced in 1984 when Hodgkin represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale and went on to win the Turner Prize in 1985.
Rhode Island is part of a series that Hodgkin painted at the end of the 20th Century which was influenced by the time he had spent as a child in America. While several of the works are titled after lyrics of the classic western song Home, Home on the Range, others such as Rhode Island are named after areas with special meaning to Hodgkin, adding an intensely personal dimension to this picture.
Consisting of deep, vibrant colours, Rhode Island draws the viewer in through its blue framing into the main arena of the composition. Through his expressive brushwork, Hodgkin allows the strong orange and the depth of the black to imbue the painting with a glowing, atmospheric warmth. The composition is punctuated by the dotting at the bottom, a typical Hodgkin technique which has become a form of signature for the artist and which adds a dynamism and rhythm to the picture.
In Rhode Island, the brushstroke is expressive, yet the image is collapsed against the wood, accentuated by the untouched areas. This not only shows the influence of the abstract art of the post-war period, using the primed but untouched board itself within the dialogue of the painting, but also reinforces Hodgkin’s status as a leading colourist: the merging of vibrant and ominous colours becomes the focus of the work.
The spontaneous nature of Rhode Island is evident through the artist’s brushstroke and his medium: Hodgkin adds Liquin to his oil paint, which assists with its drying. This permits greater flow to the paint, allowing more movement within each individual brushstroke. Hodgkin also takes advantage of Liquin's unpredictable nature, as it can alter the paint colour as it dries. Hodgkin therefore leaves each brushstroke dry before adding the next, resulting in the dense layering of his works. Because of this painstaking process, each picture can take years to create, with Rhode Island being painted between 2000 and 2002.
Well known for his continuation of his brushstrokes beyond the edge of the picture plane and onto the frame, for a large part of his career, Hodgkin rarely used unframed boards as his support. However, in the 1990s he began creating works on a larger scale, moving away from the involvement of the frame, instead using the brushstroke itself to frame the work, as is the case in Rhode Island. This allowed Hodgkin to employ more extensive, fluid brushstrokes without the frame inhibiting the single, fully extended movement of the artist’s arm, leading to a looser more spontaneous image such as the one seen here.
British • 1932 - 2017
One of the greatest colorists of his generation, Howard Hodgkin explores the very nature of painting as both cultured language and sheer expression. He disregards the classical polarities of abstraction and representation, past and present, canvas and frame, using gestural brushstrokes and a vivid palette to emphasize the picture plane, while simultaneously seeking to convey memories and emotions.
The seemingly casual, urgent quality of his paintings and prints belies a drawn-out process of making: it could take a year for Hodgkin to prepare to execute a single brushstroke. The resultant maximalist, saturated works on canvas, paper, wood and board can be intimately scaled and jewel-like, or oversized, opulent and theatrical. Whilst his early compositions have a collaged, geometric flatness, Hodgkin's later work (including etching and aquatint prints) increasingly incorporated more lush surface textures and complex, fluid patterns reminiscent of the Paturi miniatures from India, of which he was an avid collector.
London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm