“1937: At the age of 5 Hodgkin determines to become a painter.” A timeline of notable events in the artist’s life and career.
1956 - 1961
A ‘tidal wave’ of contemporary American art reaches London, with ‘Abstract Expressionism’ (1956) and ‘New American Painting’ (1959) at the Tate and Bryan Robertson’s shows of Jackson Pollock (1958) and Mark Rothko (1961) at the Whitechapel Gallery. “It is strange to think that it is possible to paint a picture which is so much bigger than you are”, Hodgkin told Alan Woods in 1998. “And that’s one of the gifts of the New York school; they taught us that more is more.”
The graphic artist and critic Roger Coleman arranges for Hodgkin to show 9 works, including Dancing, Bedroom, Afternoon and Mr and Mrs Robyn Denny, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in ‘Two Young Figurative Artists’ (with Allen Jones) – view a gallery of the exhibition and a review by Conry Maddox.
Coleman, his first wife Margaret and his second wife Brigid Seagrave become friends. At the age of 30 Hodgkin has his first solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons, London. “His work has none of the drabness which is too frequently associated by modern artists with pretensions to intellect”, Edward Lucie-Smith writes in the catalogue: “…this is painting to be enjoyed – that is, providing your idea of enjoyment doesn’t rule out the occasional need to think.”
It is not a commercial success. “I think I’ve been fortunate in that I wasn’t at all successful until I was middle-aged”, Hodgkin told Lucie-Smith in 1981, “…but there were many bitter moments to live through when it was so long before anybody seemed to want to look at my pictures at all.”
First visits India, where he travels with Robert Skelton, then Assistant Keeper of the Indian Collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Hodgkin returns every year for many years. “I think my main reason for going back to India”, he told David Sylvester in 1984, “is because it is somewhere else.”
“Painting in a studio is naturally a lonely occupation”, he wrote in 1991, in the catalogue to his collection of Indian paintings and drawings. “Collecting, on the other hand, brings with it an almost automatic series of introductions, social contacts, with dealers, scholars and occasionally with fellow collectors.” New friends include scholars (Simon Digby and Ellen Smart); dealers (Terence McInerney and John Hewitt); collectors (Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, who lived in Smith Square) and contemporary Indian artists such as Bhupen Khakhar and Vivan Sundaram.
Shows 10 new paintings at Arthur Tooth & Son’s, London, including Gardening and The Japanese Screen (which was owned by his friend the writer Bruce Chatwin).
Hodgkin’s work is included in London: the ‘New Scene’ at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, Minnesota. His friends include artists like Patrick Caulfield (who takes a studio in Hodgkin’s house), R.B.Kitaj, Richard Smith, Stephen Buckley, Mick Moon and Robyn Denny. He paints many of their portraits, as though to emphasise his outsider status: he is never part of Pop Art, or the Situation movement or Kitaj’s ‘School of London’. His work resists classification. His “are not abstract pictures”, Alistair Smith points out later, “– the marks and shapes often refer to their figurative origin. In a picture of Anthony Hill and Gillian Wise, for example, the black and white rectangular image is a witty parody of one of Hill’s own reliefs as much as it is a formal dance within the picture.” (From the introduction to the catalogue for ‘The Artist’s Eye’, 1979).
Moves to Long Dean, Wiltshire, where he lives until 1977.
1956 - 1966
Teaches part time at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, along with painters Michael Craig-Martin, Robyn Denny, John Ernest and Adrian Heath; the ceramicist James Tower; poet James Kirkup; puppet-makers Helen Binyon and Riette Sturge Moore; movement teacher Litz Pisk and the composer Henry Boys.
16 Recent Paintings at Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, include Acacia Road (the address of a friend), Anthony Hill and Gillian Wise and Brigid Seagrave. To view a picture gallery of the exhibition click here.
Exhibition titled New Paintings at Kasmin Limited, London. For the first time he abandons canvas for a wooden support in Indian Subject (Blue), 1965-9. View a gallery of the exhibition here.