Gordon Howard Eliot Hodgkin was born on 6 August in Hammersmith, London.

Hodgkin’s first name came from his maternal grandfather, Gordon Hewart, a draper’s son from Bury, Lancashire, who became a journalist, lawyer, M.P. (1913-1922) and Lord Chief Justice (1922-1940). Lord Hewart said in 1924, “it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.

Hodgkin’s father’s side of the family connected him to a series of interlocking Quaker families, scientists such as Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866. the older brother of his great-great-grandfather), who gave his name to Hodgkin’s disease and the pharmacist Luke Howard F.R.S. (1772-1864), who named the clouds in 1802 and after whom Hodgkin took his second name. Cousins include Roger Fry (1866-1934) and his sister Margery (1874-1958) as well as the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner (1943- ).

Eliot is another family name. Eliot Hodgkin (1905-1987) was another cousin, collector and artist (specialising in still lifes in tempera). Hodgkin’s father, Eliot was a passionate gardener, who was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s gold medal, and worked for ICI. When a gardening friend, E.B. Anderson, invented the ‘queen of the dwarf irises’, he named it ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ in honour of H’s mother. The Daily Telegraph said that it “Has to be seen to be believed.”

The 'Katherine Hodgkin' Iris


At the age of 5 Hodgkin determines to become a painter.

1940 - 1943

Evacuated with mother and older sister, Ann (1930 – 2006), to USA, where they live on Long Island and he attends Greenvale School. His early ambition to paint is reinforced when he sees pictures by Stuart Davis, Matisse and Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

The Green Vale School, Old Brookville, Long Island, NY 11545.

1945 - 1948

At Eton College the art teacher Wilfrid Blunt shows his pupils works borrowed from the Royal Library, next door in Windsor Castle, including Ustad Mansur’s Chameleon (circa 1612, RL12081). Hodgkin begins to collect Indian miniatures. But he runs away from school twice. He transfers to Bryanston School in Dorset where he appreciates the art teacher Charles Handley-Read but soon runs away again. Hodgkin is sent to a psychiatrist but convinces him that all he needs is to return to the States. He spends the summer back on Long Island.


Completes the first work he believes in, Memoirs, an “astonishingly prophetic” small painting, as Richard Cork called it (The Evening Standard, 1976). Its medium (gouache on board), title and subject (a conversation in an interior) anticipate later and apparently disparate work.

Memoirs, 1949

1949 - 1950

Studies at Camberwell School of Art (along with Gillian Ayres, Harry Mundy and Christopher Pinsent), where the dominant ethos is ‘Euston Road’ realism.




First shows in a public gallery – in Bath Art Society’s group show at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath – probably Portrait, which has since been lost. See Missing Works.




Creates his first print, Acquainted with the Night, based on a poem by Robert Frost. See Missing Works.

1950 - 1954

Studies at the residential Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, Wiltshire, which is run by charismatic artists Clifford and Rosemary Ellis. “We were taught the Old Master method of painting”, Hodgkin told Alan Woods in 1998. “Starting with the middle-tone ground and going down into it and up from it. I painted a copy of a Raphael head… But nobody believed in it [the method].” (Transcript, 03/02) Teachers included William Scott, Jack Smith and Peter Lanyon.

With Colin Thompson Hodgkin arranges the first show of Andre Derain’s paintings in England.

Appointed assistant art master at Charterhouse School, Surrey on one year’s probation. He resigns as soon as the appointment is confirmed.

Hodgkin teaching in the Barn at Corsham


Marries Julia Lane (two sons, Louis, born 1957 and Sam, born 1960). They live in 114 Sinclair Road, Hammersmith, London until 29 September 1958.

114 Sinclair Road, 1957 - 1958