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PRINT February 1985

TOO MUCH AND/OR NOT ENOUGH: A NOTE ON HOWARD HODGKIN

SEVERAL NORMALLY STEELY-EYED CRITICS, including Mark Stevens and Robert Hughes, have been beguiled by the work of British artist Howard Hodgkin for reasons that are not plain to see in reproductions of his work. I visited his show “Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings 1973–84,” at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., hoping to discern the reasons firsthand.1

The exhibition, which began its tour last summer as the British component of the Venice Biennale, is an overview of 11 years’ work which shows Hodgkin to be an artist of estimable confidence and consistency. The disappointing surprise it held for me was that most of Hodgkin’s paintings, despite their considered physical inflections (all are in oil on wood), look better in reproduction than face to face. In the handsome color catalogue illustrations, the camera has actually improved upon the esthetics of the paintings. It cleans up

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