1st February 2012

Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin

Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin
Sultan Ali Adil II Shah of Bijapur Hunting Tiger, Deccan, c. 1660

Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Exhibition Galleries 59 – 60, third floor)

2 February – 22 April 2012

Andrew Topsfield, the Ashmolean’s Keeper of Eastern Art, introduces the show, which he also curates:

This exhibition of about 115 Indian paintings and drawings will show this outstanding private collection virtually in its entirety for the first time.

Howard Hodgkin has been a passionate collector of Indian paintings since his schooldays, and his collection has long been considered one of the finest of its kind in the world. At times he has devoted almost as much effort to developing his collection as to his own work as a painter.

The collection comprises most of the main types of Indian court painting that flourished during the Mughal period (c.1550-1850), including the refined naturalistic works of the imperial Mughal court, the poetic and subtly coloured paintings of the Deccani Sultanates, the boldly drawn and vibrantly coloured styles of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.

But it is above all a personal collection, formed by an artist’s eye. Artistic quality and emotional feeling have always mattered more to Hodgkin than narrative content or other aspects of an Indian painting. All of his Indian pictures are of an exceptional quality, and they tend in many cases to group themselves thematically: an obvious example is the large group of outstanding elephant portraits and studies, one of Hodgkin’s particular predilections. Some paintings also may vividly evoke the Indian scene, the daily life of a country that has inspired Hodgkin on his frequent visits over nearly fifty years. Others may simply show two or more figures seated quietly together in a room or garde, gazing intently in some unspoken emotional rapport. At the same time there is a great diversity in these pictures. Some contain exciting colour passages and juxtapositions, as one might expect from Hodgkin’s own work. Yet many others, less predictably, are uncoloured or lightly coloured drawings, whose art is all in the Indian painter’s expressive mastery of line.

Twenty years ago a travelling exhibition of 42 pictures from the Hodgkin collection was shown at the Ashmolean Museum, as well as in Washington, Zurich and elsewhere. During the last ten years much of the Hodgkin collection has been on long-term loan to the Ashmolean. The purpose of the present, much larger exhibition is to show the Hodgkin collection for the first time both in its entirety and in its full maturity, after a lifetime’s constant improvement and refinement. About twenty of the works to be shown are recent acquisitions by Hodgkin which have never been exhibited previously.

The exhibition includes illustrations of epics, myths and stories; gods, goddesses and devotees; ragas and raginis, or musical modes; royal portraits and scenes of court life; hunting scenes; and paintings of elephants, birds, plants and flowers.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.

More information launch