Awarded the Turner Prize in 1985, Sir Howard Hodgkin (1923-2017) was celebrated for his expressive, abstract works in saturated colours. Hodgkin was interested in the objectivity of mark-making, and the technical process of making seemingly spontaneous brushstrokes. Many of his works, which look instantaneous, were in fact the product of two or three years’ effort.
Hodgkin enjoyed the accessible nature of prints and posters and many of his works take the form of both painting and print. This vibrant silkscreen print, published by Petersburg Press in 1980, was signed by Hodgkin in a limited edition of 500. 29 layers of colour were printed on high-quality paper to mirror the rich surface of the original painting, In a French Restaurant. This abstract scene capturing the energy of the moment is typical of Howard.
Hodgkin has been represented by Gagosian gallery since 1998, producing the exhibition poster featured below, A Late Afternoon in 2003. The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York also commissioned Hodgkin to design several posters between 1989 and 2002, many of which were beautifully produced as vibrant silkscreen prints.
Over to You, limited edition, £1,680 framed
We first collaborated with Hodgkin in 1998 with the production of two silkscreen posters. Andrew Allfree and Going for a walk with Andrew were inspired by paintings of the same names. Howard loved to see the changes that happened when re-interpreting his paintings into layers of coloured inks and varnish.
Over to You is a hand-pulled silkscreen edition also printed and published by King and McGaw. Over to You has been created from one of the last paintings Hodgkin painted in India before he died. It looks simple, but to achieve it required 34 colours. This edition is authorised by the artist's estate and certified by the embossed artist's initials H.H. and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, signed by two estate executors.
In his lifetime Hodgkin created over 140 original print editions, making him one of the most prolific British artists in the medium of works on paper. Hodgkin challenged the expressive potential of printmaking by working his plates in a painterly way because exploring the theme of mark-making that was so important to him. From lithography to etching, he worked with the help of skilled technicians to create a body of original prints that stand equal to his paintings. Howard embraced the unpredictability of these techniques, often working to an idea in his head rather than a preparatory study and allowing the final image to arise during the creative process in the workshop. He also famously instructed his assistants to hand-colour his prints, resulting in multiples that are paradoxically unique. These hand applied, physically direct elements set Hodgkin’s work apart from traditional printmaking.
‘One Down’ and ‘Two to Go’ are part of the only pair of lithographs made in the 1980s of which both images were monochrome. Hodgkin produced this print with his assistant Cinda Sparling with whom he worked for several years and had a deep understanding. During this time Sparling’s hand colouring became an integral part of the prints to the point where hand applied marks and printed marks became difficult to tell apart.
Howard’s large prints of palm trees were inspired by posters on the Paris metro. Taken by the loud, brightly coloured advertisements of designers like Cassandre, Hodgkin wanted to capture a similar immediacy in his work. The green brush stroke in Night Palm was applied by assistant Jack Shireff, instructed to let the paint drip ‘spontaneously’.
‘One Down’, Artist proof signed in pencil by Hodgkin. Lithograph from three aluminium plates printed in classic black, transparent brown/black and violet black, with hand colouring in gouache (three different greys). On buff Velin Arches mould-made paper (300 gsm). Proofed and printed by Judith Solodkin at Solo Press Inc., New York. Hand coloured by Cinda Sparling, New York. Published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd, London, 1982.
‘Night Palm’, Artist proof signed in pencil by Hodgkin. Etching with carborundum printed in colours on Du Chene handmade paper, with hand-colouring by Jack Shirreff. Printed by 107 Workshop, Wiltshire, published by Waddington Graphics, London.