Waddesdon Manor asks “Have you got a Hodgkin at home?”
As part of its preparations for Brought to Life: Eliot Hodgkin Rediscovered (25 May – 20 October 2019) - the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in nearly thirty years – Waddesdon Manor and members of Hodgkin’s family are keen to trace ‘lost’ works by the British painter who very much deserves to be returned to the spotlight.
Before his 1987 death, Hodgkin (born 1905) was a renowned painter of still life subjects and landscapes, but he was also a fine portraitist, novelist and collector.
He mainly worked in oils and egg tempera, a technique that he revived and used to create masterly depictions of everyday things; such as lemons, radishes, dead leaves and feathers, rendering them with almost uncanny accuracy. Many of his paintings can be seen as following in the Dutch and Spanish still life styles of Adriaen Coorte and Sanchez Cotan, whom he much admired.
Hodgkin’s work is greatly prized by collectors. Legendary art critic Brian Sewell wrote of Hodgkin, in his memoir, that he first encountered the artist’s work when strolling along Bond Street on his way to Christie’s – where he then worked. In the window of a furniture shop was a small painting called Mrs. Riley’s Milkweed. Arrested by the sight of ‘this strange little painting of dry stalks, dead leaves and bursting seed pods’, the late critic bought it and treasured it until his own death in 2015.
Ironically, Hodgkin and his wife Mimi kept fastidious records of the work he produced. After Eliot died, Mimi – together with her son, Max – compiled two large volumes of information on each of the paintings. The project was begun in the early 1990s, with updates made when pieces were sold at auction or by dealers.
Eliot’s grandsons Mark and Mathew, along with art historian Adrian Eeles, are coordinating a catalogue raisonné of Hodgkin’s work.
“With my father living in Brazil, after my grandmother died in 2009, the project was left for someone to takeover. When my brother Mathew and I moved to London, we started updating the records,” Mark explains. “We then asked art expert Adrian Eeles, a long-time friend of the family, to help us. We managed to trace a lot of works through our records and through adverts.”
However, Hodgkin was very prolific. He started painting in the late 1920s, but his professional career began in the early 1930s and ran for fifty years. As Mark says, “Our records are extremely good, but there is always a surprise painting which we didn't know of. He painted approximately 850 paintings (oils and tempera), we know the whereabouts of approximately 550 of them, and so there is still a long way to go. Plus there are also drawings and preparatory drawings out there.”
Mark, Mathew and Adrian – who is also curating the forthcoming Hodgkin exhibition – have teamed-up with Waddesdon Manor to appeal to art collectors, Hodgkin enthusiasts and eagle-eyed gallery visitors to seek out hitherto undocumented works and get in touch.
There are a number of works – mostly London views – they particularly want to trace. Mark explains why “Sometimes people don't realise our grandfather was a great landscape artist as well as a still life expert. During the war he produced a number of stunning landscapes of London bombed sites with St Paul's in the background, plus other works of famous landmarks such as Hampton Court, The House of Parliament and The Tower of London – but we have no idea where any of them now are. We’ve exhausted our resources in terms of finding these paintings and so now we need the help of owners to find them! We imagine some of them are still with the families of the original owners.”
If people know the whereabouts of these – or any other works by Eliot Hodgkin – please contact Mark, Mathew and Adrian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waddesdon Manor’s 2019 exhibition represents a chance for art lovers to see the biggest assemblage of Hodgkin’s paintings – many of which have never been seen in public before.
Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections at Waddesdon Manor, says “We are very proud to be working on this exhibition with the Hodgkin family and Adrian Eeles, shining a well overdue light on a British artist who deserves to be far more widely celebrated. He is best known as a painter of still life subjects, but less well known are his haunting views of bomb-sites in London after World War II, with rank weeds and wildflowers pushing up through mounds of rubble. We hope this revelatory exhibition will capture the full range of Hodgkin’s work, together with other facets of his career as an artist, which have never been fully explored.”
More information on the Eliot Hodgkin can be found at www.eliothodgkin.com