Martin Gayford’s 2010 profile of painter Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017), republished to mark the artist’s passing this week at age 84.
Gayford notes that “[Hodgkin’s] work is deeply paradoxical. For one thing, it frequently looks abstract at first and even second glance, but it is actually figurative and rooted in his experience… Hodgkin is an intensely emotional man. Famously, he is very easily moved to tears, which will strike unexpectedly, and not necessarily when he is talking about an obviously moving subject, but also – during our conversation – when describing a Corot still life once owned by his cousin. ‘It was just a vase with fresh flowers in it. Marvellous painting. It was one of only two still lifes Corot ever painted. Now it’s disappeared.’ And as he speaks his eyes fill at the thought of that Corot: its simplicity, its directness, its disappearance. Here is a clue to the meanings of his pictures. They are about intensely felt small things: the mood in a room, some flowers, an erotic memory.”