Lot 322
  • 322

Howard Hodgkin

25,000 - 35,000 GBP
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  • Howard Hodgkin
  • Mural Design for British Council Building, New Delhi
  • gouache on paper
  • 28.5 by 171cm., 11¼ by 67½in.
  • Executed in 1992.


Not examined out of the frame. The work consists of several sheets of card which have been adhered to two or more backing sheets. These sheets appear to have been adhered in several places to the mount, but have not been laid down. The sheets undulate slightly in places, some of which are lifting off the backing sheets, but otherwise appear sound. The edges of two parts of the sheet in the right half are uneven, in keeping with the Artist's working method. There are Artist's pinholes apparent at each of the upper corners, and two further pinholes apparent along the upper horizontal edge. There is a crease visible at the upper horizontal edge in the right half of the work, and a small scuff at the right side of the lower horizontal edge. There are some handling marks and studio detritus to the sheet in places, most apparent at the lower right corner. There are also some flecks of white detritus to the black gouache in places, and some areas of old adhesive in the black gouache, visible upon close inspection and thought to be in keeping with the Artist's working method. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in good overall condition. The work is float mounted in a simple wooden frame, held under glass. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Howard’s largest work was the giant mural, cut from white marble and black granite, on the façade of the British Council Building in New Delhi. Completed in 1992, the building was the result of years of collaboration with the great Indian architect, Charles Correa. Fronted with pink sandstone, into which large square recesses have been cut the building has a striking simplicity.  Correa intended the receding layers of the façade to symbolise ‘the several interfaces that have existed between India and Britain down the centuries’ (Charles Correa quoted in Eleanor Clayton (ed.), Howard Hodgkin Painting India, Lund Humphries, London, 2017, p.17). 

From within the alcoves Hodgkin’s mural dominates the structure. Taking the form of a tree the design was originally conceive in collage and is faithfully executed to retain jagged edges made by scissors in the artist’s hands.  Its form has a strong organic quality.  Branches seem to push against the severe geometry of the building creating a dynamic tension as the strain to push their way free of its ridged confines.

The decision to use exclusively black and white was inspired, if unexpected. Hodgkin, of course is renowned for his use of colour and for a building in India, of all places, it would seem the obvious choice.  However, a lot of Mughal architecture is decorated in black and white stone and as Correa noted, ‘The hotter the sun the blacker the shadow’ (Charles Correa in Alan Yentob, Imagine: Portrait of a Painter, BBC TV, directed and produced by Roger Parsons, shown at the time of Hodgkin’s retrospective at Tate Britain, 2006).  The enormous tree of knowledge offers protection to those who wish to read below its bowers. 


‘Perhaps I was influenced by a faint memory of overhearing an articulate dealer in antique Wedgwood who was trying to sell a vase to a client from the east and said, ‘Black-and-white is so cooling, so refreshing in the heat.’ Perhaps also it was the formalized black-and –white herringbone pattern in marble used as a metaphor for water in the lining of the channel that fed the internal pools and fountains of Mughal palaces.  Once this decision was made – however arbitrarily – an enormous tree seemed the only possible subject.  Black and white suggest shade and light, which in turn evoke foliage.  So I decided on an ecumenical tree of no particular species and no specific symbolism.  I am not a symbolic artist.  But the building is part of a library, and the tree of knowledge means something to everyone – scholars sit under the tree reading and people hug the shade to talk, wherever the sun is hot enough.’ (Howard Hodgkin quoted in Eleanor Clayton (ed.), Howard Hodgkin Painting India, Lund Humphries, London, 2017, p.17)