Tiles, carpet fragments, antiques, drawings and paintings voraciously collected by the late Sir Howard Hodgkin are to appear in the auction.
Review: Howard Hodgkin, 1932-2017
Sotheby’s has announced that it is to sell nearly 400 items from a collection that shines a fascinating light on the way in which the spirit of one of Britain’s most distinctive painters have worked.
Hodgkin, known for its explosion of colorful and emotional paintings, died in March, at the age of 84 years. The sale reveals that he has been a keen scourer of the auction, the identification of objects of beauty that he wanted the must-haves and then filling his house in Bloomsbury, London, with them.
Sweet Bowl by Patrick Caulfield. Photograph: Patrick Caulfield
His partner, the writer Antony Peattie, said that there had emotional and practical reasons for the sale. “After his death, the house was so sad, and all these objects are left in place, but after 33 years we spent together, everything has changed,” said Peattie.
“It was so emotional and difficult that everything in the house spoke to Howard and Howard was not there to speak for itself, I found it very hard … I had to start over at zero.”
Iznik tile from Turkey, made in 1575 Photo: Sotheby’s
Peattie said that he didn’t want the house to be a sanctuary and that he had been convinced by the former director of the Tate Sir Nicholas Serota as a museum of Hodgkin’s disease is a bad idea. “He works for 10 years and then you get into trouble on … who runs it? Who’s it for? Artist of reputation to go to, and then you have this haystack.”
There is also a practical reason for the sale. “Howard wanted to give a lot of money to people after his death and left a letter with his wishes … but this assumes that there is money to give.”
Hodgkin made money from his art, but he was not a saver’. He liked to buy things. “If Howard needs it he bought it, sometimes a lot of money once he could afford it,” said Peattie. “He did not believe in the business and if something was really good, he went ahead and paid the price for it.”
Hodgkin loved auction catalogues, from Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Bonhams and auction houses in Salisbury, Lewes, Edinburgh, and others in Europe. He would often be present in person, holding his pencil, until he had gained what he wanted.
Objects sold include vibrant colored Ottoman, india and Islamic tiles, textiles and carpets, as well as fragments of calligraphy, to the Italian pietra dura, marble and prints, mezzotints, and engravings.
The collection also includes works by some of his friends such as Patrick Caulfield, represented by a blue still life of a fresh bowl, which comes with an estimate of £300 000 to 500 000 books; a work by Bhupen Khakhar, The De-Luxe Tailors (estimate £250,000-£350,000) and Peter Blake postcard on a green felt background, which he has given of Hodgkin’s disease in 1974 (£8 000 to 12 000 pounds sterling).
Peattie says Hodgkin liked the idea of a sale after his death, because the objects have served their purpose. They had “in some mysterious way, of the fed of his work”.
Frances Christie, head of Sotheby’s modern British art department, said the disease of Hodgkin collection “really gives you a glimpse of how his mind worked and what his true passions and personal ideas and emotions have been. When you walk through the house and you see all the objects that he had collected, suddenly, the paintings make more sense.”
• Sotheby’s held the Howard Hodgkin: Portrait of The Artist at the sale in London on 24 October.