Tiles, carpet fragments, antiques, drawings and paintings voraciously collected by the late Sir Howard Hodgkin are to appear at auction.
Sotheby’s has announced it is to sell about 400 items from a collection that shines a fascinating light on how the mind of one of Britain’s most distinctive painters worked.
Hodgkin, known for his explosively colourful and emotional paintings, died in March, aged 84. The sale reveals that he was a keen scourer of auctions, identifying objects of beauty he wanted as must-haves and then filling his house in Bloomsbury, London, with them.
His partner, the writer Antony Peattie, said there were emotional and practical reasons for the sale. “After he died the house was so sad and all these objects remained in place but, after 33 years that we spent together, everything had changed,” said Peattie.
“It was so poignant and difficult that everything in the house spoke for Howard and Howard wasn’t there to speak for himself, I found that very hard … I had to start again.”
Peattie said he did not want the house to be a shrine and he had been persuaded by the former Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota that a Hodgkin museum was a bad idea. “It works for 10 years and then you get into trouble following on … who runs it? Who’s it for? Artist’s reputations go and then you’ve got this millstone.”
There is also a practical reason for selling. “Howard wanted to give a lot of money away to people after his death and left a letter of his wishes … but that presupposes that there is money to give away.”
Hodgkin made good money from his art but he was not a saver. He liked buying things. “If Howard needed it he bought it, sometimes for a lot of money once he could afford it,” said Peattie. “He didn’t believe in bargains and if something was really good he went ahead and paid the price for it.”