Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends

Past exhibition archive
23 March - 18 June 2017


★★★★★ Daily Telegraph

★★★★★ Evening Standard

★★★★★ The Times

★★★★★ Mail on Sunday

This was the first exhibition of portraits by Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017), one of Britain’s greatest artists. Hodgkin’s paintings are characterised by rich colour, complex illusionistic space and sensuous brushwork. By emphasising these pictorial elements, his work frequently appears entirely abstract. However, over the course of 65 years, a principal concern of Hodgkin’s art was to evoke a human presence.

The role of memory, the expression of emotion, and the exploration of relationships between people and places are all preoccupations. The exhibition explored Hodgkin’s development of a personal visual language of portraiture, which challenges traditional forms of representation.


Supported by Julia and Hans Rausing

Spring Season 2017 sponsored by




Directed by Miriam Perez/Gagosian; Produced by PerryDuke.

New Work

Portrait of the artist by Miriam Perez. Courtesy Gagosian.
Portrait of the artist by Miriam Perez. Courtesy Gagosian.

Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music is Howard Hodgkin’s last major painting and his final self-portrait, completed in 2016 with the Gallery’s exhibition in mind. The large work evokes a deeply personal situation in which the act of remembering is memorialised in paint.

While he worked on it, recordings of two pieces of music were played continuously: ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’, composed by Jerome Kern and published in 1940, and the zither music from the 1949 film The Third Man, composed and performed by Anton Karas. Both pieces were favourites of the artist and closely linked with earlier times in his life that the experience of listening recalls. Kern’s song is itself a meditation on looking back and reliving the past.


Hodgkin: A Life in Portraits

Portraiture was a central preoccupation in Howard Hodgkin’s work, though this aspect of his painting is continually overlooked and unacknowledged. Over the course of a career spanning more than six decades, Hodgkin remained committed to the representation of people, and was arguably one of the late twentieth century’s greatest portraitists.

Discover the development of Hodgkin’s approach to portraiture in this gallery of works from the exhibition.


By Paul Moorhouse


Howard Hodgkin is internationally recognised as one of Britain’s leading artists. Hodgkin was awarded the Turner Prize in 1985, a year after representing Great Britain at the Venice Biennale and solo exhibitions of his work have been held in Europe and the USA – including major retrospectives at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, the Metropolitan Museum, New York and Tate Britain, London. This book accompanies the first exhibition to focus on Hodgkin’s portraits.

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216 pp, 100 illustrations
£29.95 hardback