Lot 49
  • 49

HOWARD HODGKIN | Counting the Days

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Howard Hodgkin
  • Counting the Days
  • signed, titled and dated 1979-82 on the reverse
  • oil on wood panel and frame
  • 55 by 63.5 cm. 21 5/8 by 25 in.


Barry Morrison, Georgia
Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
Alexander Ward, New Jersey
Sotheby's, New York, 8 November 1989, Lot 73 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by Louis J. C. Tan


New York, M. Knoedler & Co, Howard Hodgkin, November - December 1982, no. 5 
Venice, 41st Venice Biennale, British Pavillion; Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection; New Haven, Yale Centre for British Art; Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft; and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings 1973-84, June 1984 - August 1985, p. 63, illustrated in colour


Anon., 'Farbe und Darstellung: Howard Hodgkin', German Vogue, December 1984, p. 170, illustrated in colour 
Richard Dormet, 'Howard's Way', Telegraph Weekend Magazine, 24 November 1990, p. 53, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts; and Dublin, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Howard Hodgkin, Small Paintings 1975-1989, June - December 1991, p. 27, illustrated in colour
Michael Auping et al., Howard Hodgkin Paintings, London 1995, p. 176, no. 167, illustrated
Andrew Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 2001, p. 70, illustrated in colour, and p. 89 (text)
Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings. Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, p. 184, no. 167, illustrated in colour
Exh. Cat., Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art; London, Tate Britain; and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Howard Hodgkin, February 2006 - January 2007, p. 183, illustrated in colour (in installation at Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings 1973-84, 41st Venice Biennale, British Pavilion, Venice, 1984)


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is brighter and more vibrant in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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

“I think to speak to as many people as possible [through my art] is not a vain ambition. The kind of sensual/romantic/passionate/emotional feelings that artists have, do appeal to people. The only way an artist can communicate with the world at large is on the level of feeling. I think that the function of the artist is to practise his art to such a level that, like the soul leaving the body, it comes out into the world and affects other people.” Howard Hodgkin interviewed in 1978 cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain (and travelling), Howard Hodgkin, 2006, p. 181

Executed in 1979-82, Howard Hodgkin’s Counting the Days is aglow with vivid swathes of colour. Surpassing the confines of language, the artist’s palette operates as a kind of visual encyclopaedia of instinctual emotion and guttural force. Dappled bursts of colour – in rosy pink, umber, cobalt blue, vibrant yellow and deepest black – disband from the centre of the work, seeping over the edges and spilling onto the richly saturated frame. Almost entirely submerged in painted torrents of sun-drenched yellow, dazzling orange and flaming vermilion, the frame appears to shroud the composition in a halo of iridescent light. Composed at the apex of Hodgkin’s career, Counting the Days is a resplendent example of Hodgkin’s visual idiom and was notably exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1984. Potently alluring and intriguingly profound, it is comparable to the many paintings held in prestigious museum collections worldwide, from the Tate Modern, London, to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The painted frame is the hallmark of Hodgkin’s aesthetic: it signifies both a literal and metaphorical overspill of paint and emotion that cannot be contained. In exceeding the parameters of his surfaces, the artist provocatively and emotively undermines traditional modes of representation, which position the frame as a perspectival window into an illusory realm. Redolent and hauntingly beautiful, his paintings are not so much a processed emulation of the physical world as they are a raw evocation of feeling and experience, recollection and nostalgia. Like the passing of time, they stir memories and awaken sentiment. As the artist himself expressed, “I am a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. I paint representational pictures of emotional situations” (Howard Hodgkin cited in: Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin: The Complete Paintings Catalogue Raisonné, London 2006, p. 14).

Hodgkin’s paintings occupy an impalpable space that exists between figuration and abstraction. Though his suggestive titles allude to temporalities, topographies or people, his compositions remain loose and enigmatic, with defined clarity always just out of reach. The vibrant colours and swift brushmarks of the present work bring to mind Henri Matisse’s seminal painting from 1904, Luxe, Calme et Volupté. Matisse’s bold Fauvist colours and Neo-Impressionist forms, radical in their contemporary moment, seem to reverberate in Hodgkin’s own kaleidoscopic palette like hazy remnants of a fading recollection. This is further enhanced by the painting’s title, Counting the Days, which imbues the work with a poignant sense of ephemerality. Indeed, much of the poetic force of Hodgkin’s practice is his ability to conjure, in the very same moment, a myriad of memories, both personal and collective, universal and unique. Revealing the key to his method, Andrew Graham-Dixon remarks: “He has to create a pictorial language capable of balancing on that particular knife edge, a language that would enable him to create pictures that declare their dual status both as painted memories and as images of the imperfect nature of all remembrance” (Andrew Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, London 2001, p. 61).

The artist often thought of his ornately painted frames as the protectors of his sentient paintings: “The more evanescent the emotions I want to convey,” he wrote, “the thicker the panel, the heavier the framing, the more elaborate the border, so that this delicate thing will remain protected and intact” (Howard Hodgkin cited in: op. cit., p. 33). Enveloped in a blazing aura of colour, Counting the Days, then, is the very embodiment of Hodgkin’s transitory, reified sentiments.