Howard HODGKIN<br/>
<em>Night and day</em> 1997-1999 <!-- (recto) --><br />

oil on plywood and wood<br />
163.0 x 196.2 cm (framed)<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Felton Bequest, 2001<br />
2001.868<br />
© Howard Hodgkin

‘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.

Language Starter Activities

Teacher Notes

Refer to our handy Glossary of Literary Terms for definitions and examples
Read our Art Start The Art of Language Introduction
Look through the Art Start Image Bank
Where not otherwise stated these activities can be undertaken by students in pairs, small groups or individually, depending on the teachers’ individual curriculum requirements.

Group Activity: LOOKING

Senses and emotion

  • What are your first thoughts when you look at this work?
  • Imagine you have stepped into the painting. How do you feel?
    Complete the sentences individually and then share with the class:
    (List four things for each line)
    I can see…………………
    I can smell ……………………
    I can feel………………..
    I can taste …………….

Expanding Description Activities

Writing With Colour Activity

  • Find poems about colour and read them aloud.
  • Discuss and make a list of the key colours in the painting.
  • Next to each colour on your list, write down the things of which you are reminded. For example: grey – seagull in flight, orange – warmth of a camp fire.
  • How many different and unusual ways can the colours be described using similes? For example:  ‘red as a bowl of dragon’s breath’ or ‘red as a field of scarlet poppies’.

Adding Adverbs Activity

Discuss the movement of the artist’s brushstrokes in the painting and trace them in the air. Find interesting adverbs to describe those movements by completing the sentence below.

The artist’s brush was ………..
For example: swooping, spiralling, plunging, sweeping.

Collective Nouns and Synonym Challenge

  • There are many colours in this painting. Write down collective nouns to describe them. For example: a kaleidoscope, whirlpool, collection or ‘clutter’ of colours.
  • Share your list with a partner.
  • As an extra challenge, find as many synonyms for ‘colours’ as you can. For example: a melange of rainbow shades, a handful of hues.

Musical Association Activity

  • Describe the specific qualities of the painting. For example: the mood, colours, texture, emotions expressed.
  • Describe particular sounds you might be able to ‘hear’ emanating from the painting such as ‘water tumbling’ or ‘a stormy wind’.
  • Make a list of onomatopoeic words that describe these sounds. Invent words if you can’t find an appropriate term for your sound.

Music and Art Matchmaking Activity

Teacher Notes

Lyrics for Cole Porter’s song Night and Day are available at:

  • In pairs, and then with a bigger group, discuss and describe how the atmosphere and elements of the painting might be similar to one or more of the following types of music: Jazz, Hip Hop, Pop, Folk, Blues, Classical.
  • This painting has the same name as a famous song written by Cole Porter called Night and Day.
  • Locate the lyrics of the song and listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing it.
  • Discuss in which ways the song and painting might be similar.

Responding to Art Writing Projects

Writing a Blurb for a Book Cover

  • Research the linguistic features, structure and length of promotional ‘blurbs’ on the covers of works of fiction.
  • Inspired by the ideas generated in the Language Starters Senses and Emotion Activity, write the blurb for a fictional book that was written by an author inspired by the painting.


Poetry is like art – it allows us to see something in a different way. Its impact can be powerful and immediate.

“A poem is a painting that is not seen;
A painting is a poem that is not heard”
Phoebe Hesketh, A poem is a Painting, Page 7, Picture Poems, Benton, M and P, Hodder and Stoughton, 1997

  • Using this quote as a starting point, discuss and document ways in which art and poetry may be similar.

Onomatopoeic Poetry Activity

Teacher Notes

Max Dunn’s  poem The Onomatopoeia River is available at:

  • Identify the onomatopoeic words in the poem The Onomatopoeia River by Max Dunn.
  • Use the onomatopoeic words generated in the Language Starters Musical Association Activity to write a poem about the painting.

Colour Poetry Activity

Using the descriptions generated in the Language Starters activities, create a series of poems about colour using different formats.
For a simple format, consider the following structure:

What is orange?
Orange is the colour of grandpa’s waistcoat
And the flash of my goldfish’s tail.
It smells of tangerine peel and feels fizzy
As it explodes in my mouth

What is green?
Green is the colour of……

Presenting and Performing Projects

Music and Art in Harmony Activity

  • Individually create a PowerPoint presentation that features four of your favourite artworks.
  • Try to include a variety of media such as painting, sculpture, photography and drawing.
  • Choose music for each of the artworks and give an oral commentary explaining how the artwork and the music relate to each other.
  • In small groups, create a sound sculpture that evokes Night and Day, 1997–1999 using voice, body percussion and simple musical instruments (you could even make your own).

Debating Activity

  • The role and nature of contemporary art is often debated. In small groups make a list of qualities that, in your opinion, define ‘good’ art in today’s society.
  • Discuss why or why not Night and Day, 1997-1999 would fit into that category.
  • Organise and record or film a debate with speakers arguing for or against the topic: ‘Night and Day, 1997-1999, is a great work of contemporary art’.

Poetry Reading Activity

The earliest poems were not written down, due to low levels of literacy. Instead, they were performed aloud. Volume, speed of reading, body language (including sometimes dramatic gestures), and pauses were all used in performances to keep the audience enthralled. Consider these aspects of performance before engaging in the activity below.

  • Record or film (individually or as a class presentation) a poetry reading of the poem(s) you wrote in response to Night and Day, 1997-1999 in the Responding to Art Writing Projects Poetry activities.