‘Night and Day suggests some exotic part of the world; like so many of Hodgkin’s paintings, it conveys a sense of opulence’
Offered from the estate of the influential American collector Eugene W. Thaw, who acquired it from the prestigious collection of Stanley J. Seeger, Night and Day is a sumptuous vision from a pivotal moment in Howard Hodgkin’s career. In 1976, the year that this work was begun, Hodgkin was granted his first museum show in Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art, which then toured to London and Newcastle, thrusting him to the first rank of practicing British artists. Composed on wood, which Hodgkin had used since 1960 for its solidly material presence, Night and Day centres around a glowing arrangement of geometric forms in myriad hues — ultramarine, indigo, yellow, a vivid green — that taken together resemble an architectural interior. A curved stroke of pink elicits a fleshy human presence. Maroon dots, redolent of those used by the pointillist painters of the late 19th century, scatter over this arrangement and cross over onto the capacious, surrounding frame, providing a ruminative counterpoint to the vibrant colouration of the central panel. Night and Day stands at a crux in Hodgkin’s transition from his earlier figurative style to his distinctive mature idiom, in which subjects were conveyed through painterly gestures that acquired a unique poignancy. Its jewel-toned palette and rich surface also allude to the artist’s fascination with the art and atmosphere of India: a country he had visited repeatedly since 1965, and which would come to exert a powerful influence on his practice. Indeed, as Noel Frackman writes, ‘Night and Day suggests some exotic part of the world; like so many of Hodgkin’s paintings, it conveys a sense of opulence’ (N. Frackman, ‘Howard Hodgkin – Stanley Boxer’, Arts Magazine, Vol. 52, November 1977, p. 29).