Night and day (1997-1999)
oil on plywood and wood
163.0 x 196.2 cm (framed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 2001
© Howard Hodgkin

Howard Hodgkin

Night and day

‘I would like to paint pictures where people didn't care what anything was, because they were so enveloped by them.’
Howard Hodgkin

'Don’t paint the thing itself; paint the effect it produces.’

Howard Hodgkin

Visual memories, experiences or feelings are the starting point for the paintings of English artist Howard Hodgkin. He works in a gestural, expressive style using wide, sweeping brushstrokes to create layers and bursts of intense, bold colour.

Paintings such as Night and day have a strong physical presence and aura. The brushstrokes are clear evidence of the artist’s movements and presence, and the contrasts of blazing colour have great visual energy and intensity.

Hodgkin often creates a frame-like effect in his paintings using horizontal and vertical strokes around the edges of the composition. This draws attention toward the centre of the work and creates depth. In some paintings, such as Night and day, Hodgkin extends the brushstrokes over the frame of the painting, emphasising the painting as an object.     

While the bold, fluid brushstrokes suggest that the artist works rapidly and spontaneously, Hodgkin often spends several years on a painting, reworking it and adding layers until he is satisfied. 

Classroom discussion:

  • The titles of Hodgkin’s paintings offer a starting point for understanding his intentions. How do you think the title Night and day relates to the painting?
  • Think of another title for this painting based on your response to what you see.  Explain your choice.
  • Examine the painting closely. What clues can you find that the painting was made over a long period of time?
  • What do the artist’s quotes add to your understanding of his painting?

J. Smith in T. Gott, L. Benson & contributors, 20th Century Painting and Sculpture in the International Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.