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Grantchester Road, Howard Hodgkin

Painting by Howard Hodgkin depicting geometric abstract, solid black outlines on inside edges. pink arc shapes top left & top right. red spots on yellow ground at centre; green dots on red around outside edge.

At a glance

Artist: Howard Hodgkin

Date: 1975

Materials: Oil on wood panel

Acquisition: Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery (2021)

Howard Hodgkin’s use of different colours and shapes, neatly framed with an orange and green-spotted border, gives the impression that this is an abstract painting.

However, on closer inspection, Hodgkin is depicting an interior – a fireplace in the centre of the room, a LC2 Le Corbusier chair directly opposite, and a mezzanine level supported by columns above. The different elements of this work form ‘almost a stage-set of the mind.’

This interior belongs to a house designed and built by the architect Colin St John Wilson between 1961 and 1964 on Granchester Road in Cambridge. This is one of a pair of houses by Wilson in this location – one of which was to be his own home – that are now Grade II listed.

Granchester Road is often described as the pivotal work in the development of Hodgkin’s oeuvre. The different components of this painting are not only interacting with each other but the portrait of the artist himself behind a column, the furniture, and the architecture become almost interchangeable. As described by the art historian Paul Moorehouse, ‘the different parts are combined in a more integrated and mutually reinforcing way.’

Howard Hodgkin did not belong to a particular group or school of artists. His work remained independent throughout his career. He often described himself as a representational painter, but not a painter of appearances. He saw his paintings as pictures of emotional situations.