The Howard Hodgkin collection of Indian court paintings

According to the records, Howard Hodgkin devoured Agatha Christie’s novels. He couldn’t resist an elephant. And, when it came to buying whatever he longed for his private collection, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. The late British artist has explained that much of the motivation behind a collection can be attributed to a single concept: desire. But once that stage is surpassed and the collection’s character is formed in the owner’s mind, the pieces must be acquired “out of necessity, as well as passion.” During a talk that Mr. Hodgkin gave in 1992, he announced flatly: “A great collection often seems to be the result of one very rich man going shopping. It isn’t. It is really partly illness, an incurable obsession.”

Howard Hodgkin’s compilation of Indian court paintings was acquired in 2022 by the Met Museum in New York. The exhibition that followed, “Indian Skies: The Howard Hodgkin Collection of Indian Court Painting“, offers a comprehensive look at a group of artworks that spans Mughal, Deccan, Rajput and Pahari pictures dating from the 16th to the 19th century. There are epic and court scenes; portraits of maharajas and dervishes; botanical and zoological studies; hunting, bathing, weddings; and a room devoted entirely to elephants, many depicted with the same introspective approach human beings’ representations typically take. Also, it seems that the artist loved to identify with elephants.

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