Interviewed by David Sylvester, by Howard Hodgkin and David Sylvester


Interviewed by David Sylvester
David Sylvester and Hodgkin in conversation for Judy Marle's 1982 film for the Arts Council.

DAVID SYLVESTER: A lot of your pictures are painted over a period of three, four, five years, or longer. How do you know a painting is finished?

HOWARD HODGKIN: My pictures are finished when the subject comes back. I start out with the subject and naturally I have to remember first of all what it looked like, but it would also perhaps contain a great deal of feeling and sentiment. All of that has got to be somehow transmuted, transformed or made into a physical object, and when that happens, when that’s finally been done, when the last physical marks have been put on and the subject comes back – which, after all, is usually the moment when the painting is at long last a coherent physical object – well, then the picture’s finished and there is no question of doing anything more to it. My pictures really finish themselves.

When you speak of the subject’s coming back or the picture’s being a coherent physical object at long last, you’re talking about exceedingly subtle exercises of a sensibility. What is a finished picture, really? For example, take that marvellous Degas portrait of Héléne Rouart which the National Gallery has acquired lately. Now, according to conventional art-historical wisdom, the painting is not quite finished. Do you think it’s unfinished?

I think the whole picture is deliberately made to look like an unfinished painting. There are those curious red and blue pastel lines round the arm, along the edge of the body, which are often running almost in tandem side by side, and they actually make it look more incomplete there. Theyclighten the atmosphere, they lighten the surface, they make a little sort of breaking-up of the surface which makes it more like other parts of the picture which are more loosely paintd. Because it had got a bit tight in places in the painting of the body, and clearly Degas was trying to soften it again, those red and blue marks were added to the image to make the illusionism greater. To me, that picture has the most extraordinary sense of reality about it because of the fact that what you see has not been

finally made into the sort of tight image of realism that we’ve been led to expect in all sorts of ways, but has the kind of glancing, slightly dematerialised quality that one does actually see in reality.

And do you want to get that glancing, dematerialised quality?

Yes, I do, I want to get the sort of evasiveness of reality into my pictures. I mean, looking at you now, I don’t see Ingres’s portrait of Monsieur Bertin, for example. Because I’m always seeing something else and something more. I might be looking past you or looking at the light falling on part of you or thinking of you. So it’s my idea of you as well as what I see that’s in my mind. But this kind of realism which depends also a lot on illusionism, is, of course, evanescent, frail and difficult to establish. And I think what’s extraordinary about that picture of Degas’s is that early in his life he was painting very Ingres-inspired pictures, where his idea of someone both from seeing them and knowing them is turned into a sort of iconic, solid, hard representation, and that he went from there into something which is much more like life itself.

He worked on that painting for a long time; so one can get that glancing dematerialised quality when doing that. And then there’s de Kooning’s Woman series, which were all reworked again and again and which he said he wanted to be like glimpses. One might suppose naively that the way to try and reproduce that evasiveness of reality would be through alla prima painting, but Degas and de Kooning weren’t content with that and evidently you’re not.

Because alla prima painting doesn’t in fact contain enough. It only contains as much as you have had time to put down. And the great problem, when one wants to add more, is to work on and on and on till you can not only return to the original nature of the subject – but as a painting, as something else – but also return to the original freshness. And that’s taken me years to get even near. Because usually when one goes on working at a painting, there are obviously physical and technical difficulties that make it less and less likely to be fresh at the other end. To be brief and witty at the end of five years’ work is obviously a very difficult thing, but can easily contain much more than doing it straight away. And the glancing immaterial quality has got to refer to a great deal. You need to take in an awful lot for it to have meaning. What takes a long time is to give it meaning, to enclose within it emotions, feelings, and obviously a quantity of impressions rather than the single one that one might have been able to include in an alla prima beginning. Which is often how I do begin. In fact, the subject-matter of my pictures in sort of literal terms is often established in one sitting, as it were. Like that picture on the wall, which is just blue marks, but is the entire composition which I will go on working on for a very long time.

Going on for a long time is a gamble, of course, a necessary gamble. Even with great artists, it often wrecks pictures, irredeemably. Does it with you?

Almost never.

Why is that?

I think because I only go on with them until they’re finished. I’ve sometimes deliberately shown pictures when they’ve been unfinished, because I’m uncertain as to how to go on, and it’s a great boon, obviously, to be able to see them somewhere else and in the company of other pictures and so forth, because it makes one able to see them more clearly. There’s a danger for anyone working like I do – that you become too obsessively involved with the picture to see it very clearly any longer. But I’ve never shown a picture thinking it’s finished and then realised it wasn’t.

And when things go wrong with a picture, you find that you can get it back?

That is perhaps the only part of my life as an artist about which I have total confidence. Most of my pictures have had nine, ten, twelve lives. But there’s a marvellous sentimental remark in Muriel Spark’s new book, where she says for an artist time can always be regained, wonders never cease. And of course it’s true, because by an act of imagination you can always go back. Because when a picture of mine is going wrong it’s when it’s losing its meaning. But one can go back to the subject. That’s the one thing I can do or the one thing I would claim I can do – I mean, even to the extent of going back to some love affair of long ago, or something like that. And, because for obvious reasons it was long ago and all gone, and so on, the picture might well then be almost completely dead and finished with. To turn it into a picture, one has to go back to the original feeling and then start making new bricks or rather new choices of bricks to build it up again. Somebody once said to me that I always claimed that my pictures were about feelings, whereas he thought they were always resolved in terms of the picture, in terms of pictorial language and in terms of the physical object. And he’s quite right, because they are pictures and they have to be resolved in those terms. But the impetus for that resolution comes from the feeling, which is what they’re about. And if I’ve succeeded, I’ve turned the original feeling, emotion, or whatever

you like to call it, into an autonomous pictorial object, which I look at in exactly the same way you do. I once described finishing a painting to somebody as where – this is obviously talking of an ideal situation – the picture is somewhere hovering in mid-air between myself and the spectator so that it looks as strange or as interesting or whatever to me as it does to any other spectator.


Your subjects are very often social experiences, people sitting in their rooms talking, and so forth. Sometimes they have certain overtones of the comic or of the grotesque. But do you tend to paint subjects about people or situations where you’re directly involved in a somewhat passionate way or rather situations in which you’re fairly detached and something of an observer? Is there a tendency one way or the other?

Well, increasingly in recent years they are subjects in which I’m passionately and personally involved. I think my earlier pictures tended to bee more voyeuristic than they’ve become. They’re much more about myself now, or incidents which personally involved me at least.

Do they tend to be more or less pleasurable experiences? Do they tend to be experiences which caused you anguish?

Well, both, really. There’s a picture called Reading the Letter, which is in fact a picture about a very anguished and personally unpleasant experience – a letter written to someone else which, without being too specific about it, was very unpleasant for me to hear, and the picture is about the moment when it was being read aloud and I was in the room.

Do the subjects tend to be a single incident rather than something cumulative or composite?

When they’re portraits of people they would be an accumulation of experiences of that person. But they’re far more often particular moments of great pleasure or pain.

But just as often of pain as of pleasure?

No, less often pain, because those are not moments I particularly want to remember usually.

Except, of course, that there might be a motive to remember them in the possibility of catharsis through painting them.

Yes, there is that, and I think the picture I was talking about, Reading the Letter, probably was painted in part for that reason. There is another picture of that period that is totally voyeuristic and which is called Tea. And that was an extraordinary situation, because I went round to these friends to have tea and this person they hardly knew, who was a male prostitute, though they didn’t seem to know that at the time, came round to see them, and we were making sort of ordinary fatuous social conversation and he said what do you do and I said I’m a painter, what do you do, and he said I’m a prostitute, and he seemed a very respectable and intelligent person and I said you must be joking, what do you mean you’re a prostitute, and for the next six hours he described what his life as a prostitute was like. It was like something out of Mayhew’s London. And nobody moved. I think that was the last voyeuristic painting I made.

What you’re been saying about what has been happening in your painting is that it’s become much more liberated, that you’ve been able to afford to put more of yourself into it.

That is quite true. I have been able to put more of myself into it.

And maybe that’s why for me it’s become increasingly moving.

And why there is more of it than there used to be.

Well, I expect it sounds patronising to talk like this, but I have to say that I’ve much admired your work since about 1960, but that in recent years it’s made a great leap forward, as the Chinese say. And I think that you took off on that leap in 1975, especially in a painting called Grantchester Road.

I think that’s true, and that it was when I was beginning to be able to join everything up together. Because my earlier pictures, I think, physically were very inorganic. It’s not a word I like, but I can’t think of another one. Like all artists who are alive now probably, I’m affected by assemblage and collage and the mixing of things, or rather the assembling of things, and the different elements in the language which I was talking about before didn’t join. They remained too autonomous; I mean, their autonomy defeated to some extent the autonomy of the whole picture, or at least the physical identity of the whole picture. I saw last night a portrait of 1972 called Interior 9AG, which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. I had terrible trouble with that picture and I resolved it eventually as a flat design, whereas now I would have used all kinds of illusionistic devices, which I do a little bit there, but in the end they’re defeated by the pattern on the surface of the picture.

I don’t say it was cause and effect and I don’t know whether the chicken or the egg came first, but I think that at the time of that leap your key influence ceased to be Matisse and became early Vuillard, and I think that some of the marks and some of the variations and contrasts of marks that you’re making now are like the kinds of marks — but blown up — that you get in Vuillard.

I’ve always been a fanatical admirer of Vuillard. As far as the influence of Matisse is concerned, I’ve always personally felt that his influence on me was not through his physical practice as an artist but his identity as artist, his moral identity as artist. His idea of how a twentieth-century artist lives and works influenced me far more than his actual practice as a painter. That doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply admire and enjoy his pictures, but I personally have never been able to see the physical influence of Matisse that everybody else seems to.

I don’t see it in the work of recent years. I do very strongly see Vuillard of the Nineties. For example, there was a painting I was looking at in Zurich the other day of an interior with six figures, which seems terribly relevant to you. If one was doing a kind of placing of your work art-historically, I’d say that it’s as if you’d taken these Vuillards and done two things to them: you’ve moved in, you’ve moved into close-up; and it’s as if this flat, unbroken, unbreakable surface of a Vuillard had been deflowered.

I think that’s exact (that’s myself saying that as a spectator of what I’ve done). Funnily enough, just going back to dates and how my work has changed, after the second one-man show I ever had, which was in 1964, somebody wrote a piece about it where they described the pictures as a sort of brutalism of intimisme. So I think that it’s a strain in my painting that has probably been there all along. But it’s much more true now and it’s become uppermost.

You talk about the use of illusionistic and space-making devices, and what I find remarkable about your work is that you do, as it were, penetrate, open, Vuillard’s intact surface and create very mysterious and suggestive and cavernous spaces – possibly metaphors for orifices of the body, at times, especially in a painting called Day Dreams, perhaps – and manage to do that without violating the flatness of the picture-plane.

I take that as a great compliment and I think it’s also extremely precise. But I only think so after the event, because one of the problems – as you’ve talked to so many artists, you must know all too well – one of the problems about talking about what one does is that one has to talk about it – at least I find that I have to talk about it – as a fellow spectator. I ’m not just agreeing with you because I’m very pleased by what you say. I can also see it. But that’s totally separate from what I’m thinking about when I’m working.

What are you thinking about when you’re working?

I’m thinking about making illusionistic spaces.

But in making them, you don’t lose the flatness of the picture-plane. I know that for me nothing in painting matters more than that an artist should be able to create an illusion of depth without disturbing the flatness of the picture surface, and that, if the sense of the surface is lost, looking at a picture makes me feel seasick. Dissolving the surface away is for me the sign of a bad artist – a bad artist even if in other ways he’s as good as, say, Sargent. But I still don’t understand intellectually why it matters so much.

Well, it’s very simple, surely. It’s a false position, it’s a lie. I mean a picture, after all, is a flat thing, and all the mechanisms of trompe l’oeil, for example – this seems paradoxical at first but isn’t really – depend on establishing the picture-plane. They don’t work otherwise. Unless you first tell the spectator that he’s looking at a flat thing, you can’t otherwise make a hole in it. It’s not for nothing that all those trompe l’oeil of dead game have wood-grain behind them – anything that will establish the surface. And I think that in Sargent’s case it was almost a moral thing. He was an idle artist, and he didn’t ever understand about the sort of simple rules of pictorial structure, and so the reason one feels seasick is because there’s no ground. You aren’t standing on anything solid.

Now, when you say that when you’re painting you’re thinking about how to make illusionistic spaces, is the preservation of the flatness of the surface instinctive or are you very consciously doing things to preserve it?

Invariably you have to, because, as I said earlier about all the mechanisms of trompe l’oeil, they won’t work otherwise. You cannot produce a satisfactory illusion of depth without saying here is a flat surface, now we can open doors in it. And I disagree with the idea which is generally put forward that an obsession with the picture-plane is a twentieth-century thing.

It’s absolute nonsense, when you think how obvious it is how Raphael or Titian worked to retain a sense of the surface.

It runs all through Old Master painting. You cannot have Baroque or Rococo constructions, which depend on illusion, without knowing absolutely where the picture-plane is and making quite certain that the spectator knows where it is too, which is the whole secret. We shouldn’t need to be talking about this except that it’s one of those extraordinary sorts of basic facts about making pictures which seem to get lost when not presented in ways that we’re all familiar with.


When did you first go to India?

Well, I can’t remember the date, but it must have been about sixteen years ago because I’ve been fourteen times. I like to go every year if I can.

Your interest in Indian art had developed before you went there?

Long before. I first became interested in Indian art as a child when I was about thirteen, and the first Indian paintings I saw astounded me because they depicted a whole world in a way which was completely convincing but totally separate from the tradition of Western art which I was used to. At least it seemed so at the time. I’ve realised long since that it wasn’t nearly as separate as I first thought, but as it was a whole world in which everything was very precise and visible and yet somewhere else, I was very excited by this. And I think my main reason for going back to India is because it is somewhere else.

About the art, was it only paintings at first or was it textiles too?

No, it was just painting. I’ve become very interested in ornament of all sorts in the last few years, including Indian ornament, but not particularly. It’s Indian painting that really continues to fascinate and obsess me.

It’s an old truism that when you actually go to Umbria, for instance, you have the feeling that now you know what all those Umbrian paintings that you’ve seen are about. Have you been able to make that sort of connection in India?

Not at all, no. I once went on a very long and difficult journey to find a place where paintings in my collection were supposed to have been painted, and there was just a little village, and there was a landscape which seemed to have no connection at all with what appeared in the paintings. But it’s the eclecticism of Indian painting which I think fascinated me right at the beginning. And I think that’s because now, when the art that everybody practises is completely eclectic, to find such a totally and shamelessly eclectic art which was yet totally different – or so it seemed – from European painting was very exciting. And they seem to have an answer for everything. As a child I looked and I thought, how do you paint a tree? Well, they show you numerous ways of painting a tree, perhaps in the same picture.

Can you say what’s taken you back to India again and again?

Because it was somewhere else. The friend I was travelling with in India this year, who himself goes often, was saying it’s amazing how uncomfortable it is here, it’s amazing how much one dislikes being here, so much is offensive and difficult for a Western person to contend with, why is it that we keep coming back? And it’s a question I find almost impossible to answer. But it isn’t just masochism, which one might think from that. It’s just simply an atmosphere which is so totally different and yet is also so accessible, because people speak English and because their art, as I now have long since realised, uses so many of the conventions, but somehow the other way round or in some slightly distorted way, as well as sort of back to front. I mean they use all kinds of illusionistic devices that you find in Western art in a different way and somehow in a different sense, but they still use them. So you’ll find continuous modelling, perspective, recession, changes of scale, changes of tone. And of course the picture-plane in Indian painting is inviolable, even in the worst pictures. They’ve never learnt how to break it.

Do you paint in India?

I did once. I once painted in India, and I produced this series of works on paper which I certainly would never be able to do again, under conditions of great hardship and a sort of Fascist situation. But they had to be done very, very quickly for technical reasons, extremely quickly, and so they’re really a sort of distillation of years and years of going there, and they’re very generalised in a way which I think does relate to certain kinds of rather low-grade Indian art.

How directly has the visual experience of India affected your painting?

I really don’t know. I think that’s easier for other people to see than for me to see. I think that looking at Indian paintings must have affected the language that I’ve used, but, looking at India itself, I wonder. The colours of the Indian landscape are rather like the colours of the landscape anywhere and people talk about the light in Greece or the light in Italy, or come to that, the light in upstate New York. I think that that’s rather overrated. One can always find correspondences. I can walk out to the garden here on the night of a full moon and look at the dark sky and the dark trees and it might just as well be a garden in Delhi or Hyderabad or wherever. I think there is something, though, about those empty interiors on extremely hot afternoons and people lounging about on the vestigial furniture which probably has influenced me, but in a very tangential sort of way. It’s more the moods, the way people live in India, that has probably influenced my painting very much… very much. It’s the sort of nakedness of their usually very inhibited emotions. I mean, everything is very visible, somehow, there. Life isn’t covered up with masses of objects, masses of possessions, so that the difference between being indoors or out of doors and all the sort of functions of life are much more visible, straightforward, than they are here.

There’s a slowness of tempo in Indian life, an extreme slowness of tempo: there’s also an extreme slowness of tempo in your painting.

That is true, and there’s a sort of naked sensitivity about the people which probably affects me very much. But my life in India, you know, consists of living in hotels, seeing friends, suffering from dreadful smells and being most of the time curiously uncomfortable, and I don’t think I can really explain what that does to my pictures. But earlier in this conversation you were talking about glimpses, and were starting to quote de Kooning. I don’t know what you were going to say, but sometimes when I’m in India, unlike when I’m anywhere else, there are little glimpses when you see encounters between people – compared with the way we all behave, they behave with the utmost circumspection, and so forth. It has obviously influenced my painting a lot, come to think of it. Because there are glimpses of encounters and things that are like almost offstage, which suddenly impinge on you very clearly because of the general tempo of life there. There are sort of passionate moments. I don’t mean mine, I’ve never had any passionate moments in India at all that I can recall; they’ve always been elsewhere. But you see them.

You started liking Indian painting at an early age. Did you become interested in collecting objects that you liked at an early age?

Oh, I’ve been a collector since I was about six.

Do you collect systematically within certain areas, or are you a magpie?

No, I’m not at all a magpie, quite the opposite. And I’ve always thought that if I got something very good, if I had anything like it that was less good, it should leave at once.

And what are the areas in which you’ve collected over the years?

Really, mainly Indian paintings. I always wanted to have a great piece of European sculpture and I made many unsuccessful attempts. I did finally buy a piece, but I never had enough money to buy things that I wanted, and still probably the best Indian painting I have, I had to sell my entire collection to buy. And so my collection has remained very small, but it has got better and better as time’s gone on. And I now also collect Indian drawings, which are a great passion of mine.

And textiles?

I have a collection of Mughal carpet fragments and l’ve got one whole carpet, but that’s because I’ve become interested in ornament.

So all your collecting has been Indian, from the very start?

I’ve never tried to collect anything else with any sort of passion. The first Indian paintings I bought were when I was thirteen. I bought two Indian miniatures, which I couldn’t afford, and I borrowed some money to bet on a horse race to pay for them and of course lost it all. I managed in the end by selling one of the pictures to pay for them both. And since then I’ve bought really seriously only Indian paintings. But I’ve decided to stop. Next year I’ll be fifty, and I think I can probably buy the two pictures which will complete my collection, and then I shall just stop, because I think it’s something I can’t continue dealing with. It’s an emotional strain. It’s another emotional strain I think I’m too old to contend with.

Do you keep the things out where you can see them or do you keep them put away so that you take them out to look at them?

Nearly all my collection is on loan at the V&A. I think that’s the first step in stopping collecting. I lent them to them three years ago, and a great friend of mine said: as soon as you empty your shelves you’ll fill them again. And it’s quite true. I’ve made another collection since I lent those.

Also Indian?

Mostly of Indian drawings, yes, but I don’t look at them very often. I hang them on the wall, but I find after a bit I don’t look at them. So what I like to do from time to time is hang the lot of them up and look at them and spend a lot of time looking at them and then take them down again.

Are you obsessive about the way you hang your collection?

Absolutely. That’s why I got rid of it. I found that I was getting too worried about it. Until about three weeks ago my bedroom in this house had Indian pictures hanging all around it and the relief now at waking up in the morning and just looking out of the window when the walls are bare is tremendous. So I think that’s another step.

Does your interest in displaying things extend to hanging your own exhibitions when you can?

I care desperately about that. One of the reasons why I have no London gallery at the moment is because I got so concerned about the space in which I was going to show my pictures. And I changed galleries in New York because I wanted to go to a room which I thought was the right one.


I think for obvious reasons I will never succeed, but I would like to be a classical painter, or classical artist I would rather say, where all emotion, all feeling, turns into a beautifully articulated anonymous architectural memorial at the other end. I think that that’s what my pictures are attempting to do, and that’s why I want the language to be as impersonal as possible. So I’m trying to make a harmonious impersonal structure, but unfortunately I’m beginning dimly to realise that the marks I make are not as impersonal or autonomous as I’d really like them to be. It’s a major concern of mine that every mark that I put down should not be a piece of personal autograph but just a mark, which then can be used with any other to contain something. I want to make marks that are anonymous as well as autonomous. They can’t be one without the other, it seems to me; otherwise, they would remind you of somebody’s handling.

Tell me of an artist who particularly attracts you for making marks that are not autograph.

Jacques-Louis David, who, in some of his female portraits, very deliberately left them loose in a way which prefigures the painting by Degas we’ve been talking about and who, particularly when he was painting the backgrounds, used a totally mechanical circular motion of the bursh, which makes a network, which makes surface. It established a plane: then he would smudge little bits over. That seems to me a perfectly good example of non-autograph.

And marks that are autograph and that you rather wish were not?

Manet is the obvious example, and of course he used them in such a sort of magic manner. When it works it’s fine, but there are times when his pictures are not at their greatest, when I find that the autograph marks are made to stand in for something that could perhaps have a little more meaning. Because the trouble with autograph marks is that they look as if they mean something. They’re like scribbled signatures where actually they’re not real. This sounds very moralistic, but the trouble with autograph marks in the end is that they physically or pictorially seem to work but they don’t really mean anything. I don’t think in the end there’s much difference between them, because the non-autograph mark has to be given meaning just like an autograph one has to, but I think it’s a more straightforward operation if the mark is as simple and direct as possible.

What do you think of Jasper Johns’s marks?

Well, I think that Jasper makes a lot of different kinds of marks. He does make autonomous and impersonal marks, I think, with tremendous success. Where they fail to be that is where he wants – which is, I think, one of the most difficult things to do, but which I also try to do – to make, as it were, emotive-type marks but in quotation marks, so that they’re not in fact emotive, they’re just that kind of mark. If he does that in his drawings sometimes, I think, very unsuccessfully, it’s because it’s very difficult to build in quotation marks, it’s very difficult to build in our ironical bit, in terms of actual handling, and he does try and do that. I think in his paintings and in his best prints he certainly succeeds in making marks which are emotive and cold all at once. Lucky man. We’ve all long been taught to believe that certain kinds of physical marks have one meaning and others have another, so that, to put it at its most simplistic, a loose mark is romantic and imprecise and a hard mark or a sharp one is classical and architectural. It’s not actually true, but it’s a tremendous barrier one has to jump over. Don’t you think Jasper’s trying very hard to do that? And I’m also trying.

I think in any case that you’re one of the painters whose marks are really peculiar to themselves. I think they have a very haunting sense of mystery and a kind of slightly disarrayed luxury.

I restrict myself deliberately to very few kinds of marks. Astonishingly few, really. Hardly any modelling, as you’ve probably noticed, except, as it were, in inverted commas. Phoney trompe l’oeil modelling; spots, stripes, but not lines. Trying to avoid, as far as possible, any overtly linear marks, so that each mark itself can be autonomous, because, as soon as you draw a line round something, already the line itself is not autonomous: it’s enclosing a shape and it’s got an inside and an outside. At one time I thought I’d become a completely pointillist painter: a dot or a stripe is something over which one has infinitely more control than something which depends on the movement of the arm, which takes you back into autograph. To be an artist now, you have to make your own language, and for me that has taken a very long time. Gradually, as you make your own language, the more you learn to do, the more you can do, and the more you include.

I think you now include a much greater richness of metaphor and that this has come about through the risks you’ve been taking by opening up space. What I’d like you to tell me is how conscious you are, or think you are, of making metaphors. I mean, I’m never sure how much painters push metaphor in their work. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to do so. It’s obvious that Picasso is an artist very consciously involved in making metaphors, though he also obviously made them unconsciously. But I think that some artists can create rich metaphors without thinking about it at all. I imagine that an artist like Bonnard, whose work is rich in metaphor, would be trying to deal with practical experiences quite specifically, letting the metaphors come of their own accord.

I think I would be somewhere between those two extremes, because I think that Bonnard is, in the terms that you have just been describing, which I think are exact, the opposite to Picasso.

I think that Braque in Ateliers is using metaphors in a very conscious way. I don’t mean a disastrously conscious way.

No, but in a totally conscious way. But I would have said that in my own case, it’s a position I am forced into by the nature of the subject-matter, rather than its being a conscious decision. There are many aspects of the subjects which I paint pictures about that would lose their meaning if they were too specifically presented, and that’s why I am forced into metaphor. That’s one reason, but others are the nature of my language and the nature of the pictorial object I end up with. I’m forced into the use of metaphors, because, if you particularise too much, especially about private emotions, they would remain in the painting. In fact, the more I think about this, my pictures are totally metaphorical, but in a way that is of necessity rather than by design. The total difference between the metaphor in my work and, say, Braque’s, which you mentioned, is that his, I think, is ultimately in terms of architecture, it’s about pictorial problems to start with, whereas I begin with an emotional situation which I’ve got to make physical in terms of the pictorial, in terms of the picture, and I’ve got to turn into pictorial architecture in some way. Whereas I think that in Braque’s Ateliers, which I think are great works and infinitely his greatest pictures, the original impetus probably, and this is only making a very loose description, is pictorial and has to do with pictorial architecture. But the pictorial architecture in my pictures comes from a metaphor for emotion.