The Collection of Howard Hodgkin
2 February–22 April 2012
Schools of Mughal Painting
The Hodgkin collection
Howard Hodgkin
Dr Andrew Topsfield
Catalogue, Tickets & Events
Eastern Art at the Ashmolean
The Ashmolean Museum
Contact Details
Dr Andrew Topsfield
“These pictures have been chosen because I thought
they were beautiful, because they touched my emotions,
and not for any scholarly purposes. It is the collection of
an artist. I hope you enjoy looking at it.”
Howard Hodgkin
 Detail of Elephant
and rider
Mughal, c.1640
The artist Howard Hodgkin has been a devoted collector of Indian
paintings since his schooldays in the late 1940s. Progressively
refined over the years, his collection has grown slowly but steadily,
and has long been considered one of the finest of its kind in the
world. It is above all a personal collection, formed by an artist’s
The Hodgkin collection comprises most of the main Indian court
styles that flourished during the Mughal period (c.1560–1858):
the refined naturalistic works of the imperial Mughal court; the
poetic and subtly coloured paintings of the Deccani Sultanates;
the boldly drawn and vibrantly coloured Rajput styles of the
Punjab Hills and Rajasthan. They are exhibited here within these
broad regional groupings. Yet there are also recurrent themes
in Hodgkin’s collecting which run throughout the exhibition:
his keen interest in drawings as well as fully coloured works; his
predilection for unusually large Indian pictures; and, not least,
his love of elephant subjects, from the serene imperial elephant
portraits by Mughal artists, to the powerful action studies by the
court painters of Kota in Rajasthan.
A previous, selective exhibition of 42 paintings from the Hodgkin
collection was held at the Ashmolean in 1992, following earlier
showings in Washington and Zurich. But in the last two decades
many more important acquisitions have been made, including
in recent years the outstanding Bijapur portrait of Sultan Ali Adil
Shah. This exhibition of 115 works, held in Howard Hodgkin’s
80th year, represents his collection at a late stage of its evolution
and virtually in its entirety. This review of a lifetime’s collecting is
a valuable opportunity for us – and for the collector himself – to
reappraise and take stock, to discern themes and patterns.
 Detail of Sultan Ali
Adil Shah hunting a
Bijapur, Deccan, c.1660
 India in the Mughal and British periods (1500–1900)
Mughal Painting
The Mughal empire in India was established in 1526 by the
Central Asian prince and vivid diarist Babur (r.1526–30). It was
consolidated from the 1560s by his dynamic grandson Akbar
(r.1556–1605). Under Akbar’s keen eye, the Mughal style of
painting was also formed at this time, from an inspired synthesis
of Persian miniature technique with vigorous local Indian styles
and a growing element of European naturalistic influence. Many
of Hodgkin’s Mughal pictures belong to the Akbar period, before
the energetic qualities brought by his enlisted Indian artists were
gradually refined out of the imperial style.
 Detail of Rama’s
forest dwelling in
Illustration to the
Sub-imperial Mughal,
There are paintings too in the hybrid sub-imperial style, by
Mughal-trained artists of lesser rank for noble patrons, some of
them Hindu Rajput princes, serving at the Mughal court around
1600 and after. With its assertive geometry, unrestrained patternmaking and heightened emotional sensitivity, Rama’s forest
dwelling in Panchavati was probably made for a Raput patron
from Datia in Central India.
Hodgkin came to post-Akbari Mughal painting, with its more
highly refined naturalism, a little later in his collecting career.
His Mughal works of the Jahangir (1605–27) and Shah Jahan
(1627–1658) periods include court scenes, portraits, and superb
groups of imperial elephant portraits. Some of the later works,
such as two evocative scenes of noblemen at leisure on terraces
or the majestic portrait of the elephant Ganesh Gaj, were probably
executed away from the imperial centre of Delhi and Agra, and
far south in the permanent Mughal military settlements in the
 Detail of Sultan
Muhammad Adil Shah
and Ikhlas Khan riding
an elephant
Bijapur, c.1645
Painting of the Deccani Sultanates
In the Deccani Sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda, which would
remain independent until 1686–87, the new Mughal conventions
of royal portraiture had already been assimilated and transformed
by local court artists. Outstanding Bijapur works in Hodgkin’s
collection include Muhammad Adil Shah and Ikhlas Khan riding
an elephant. The composition derives closely from a Mughal
model, yet the treatment is wholly Deccani in its subtle richness
of colour and the restricted modelling of the darkly massive forms
of the royal elephant, while the Sultan wears an opulent, glowing
gold robe. Gold too, in varying shades, permeates an extravagant
flowering vase design, a superb flight of Deccani decorative
fantasy. Yet in contrast, a natural history illustration of bamboo
plants, an earlier and less typical work from Bijapur which Hodgkin
acquired in the 1960s and prizes highly, is stark in its conceptual
simplicity and boldly energetic brushwork.
Painting of the Pahari School
Mughal art was still more influential at the semi-independent
Rajput courts in the Punjab Hills, Rajasthan and Central India,
many of whose princes were required to attend the imperial court
and to serve in its armies. The interaction of Mughal pictorial
conventions with indigenous painting styles led to the formation
of numerous, distinctive local Rajput schools in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. Each was also subject to wide variations
of style at different periods.
 Harihara Sadashiva
Mandi, Punjab Hills,
Among the earliest paintings attributable to a Pahari (Hill) school
is the superb Mandi scene of a wedding procession passing
through a bazaar. This rare and exceptionally detailed view of midseventeenth century street life is executed with all the technical
facility of Mughal art. Yet two generations later at Mandi, a robust
indigenous idiom had reasserted itself, as seen in the powerful
stippled image of the eight-armed deity Harihara Sadashiva.
Other Pahari works of the late seventeenth century fall between
these stylistic extremes. A pair of vibrantly coloured portraits of
Basohli rulers adapt the Mughal portrait convention of a ruler
smoking a hookah and make of it something altogether different.
The red borders and other strong primary and secondary colours,
together with boldly assertive carpet and textile patterns, create
an atmosphere more intense than serene.
 Detail of Marriage
procession in a bazaar
Mandi, Punjab Hills,
 Kedara Raga:
Ascetics making music
Arki, Punjab Hills, late17th century
Hodgkin has collected a few paintings of Hindu gods and
mythological themes, such as Brahma or the Tantric goddess
Bhadrakali, but their iconography or symbolic meaning have not
interested him very much, only their effect as works of art. A
quasi-mythological genre that has attracted him particularly, in its
early Pahari forms at Basohli and other courts, is that of Ragamala
(‘Garland of Ragas’). These series of illustrations depicting the
ragas, the musical modes of North India, and their ragini ‘wives’
were conceived as representing the essential spirit or ethos
of each mode, as originally expounded in musicological texts.
In the Hill schools, Ragamala images tend to be small, squarish
and compactly composed, with strong red borders and yellow
or other coloured grounds. Their textually prescribed dramatis
personae are usually two or more figures of men, women, animals,
snakes, gods or yogis, engaged in a wide diversity of decorous
but emotionally charged psychological or physical encounters.
Sometimes these tautly conceived engagements of figures are
devotional or heroic in feeling; more often they tend to the erotic.
The resurgence of imperial painting under Muhammad Shah
(r.1719–48) brought a further wave of refining Mughal influences
to the Hills in the second quarter of the eighteenth century,
disseminated especially by wandering painters of the Guler
school. The unfinished yet dramatic painting of the monkey
Angada’s leap to Ravana’s golden fortress, from the Siege of Lanka
series of c.1725, reveals Hodgkin’s interest in uncompleted works
for their disclosure of the artist’s first ideas and
workings. It is also – like so many of his Indian
pictures — a work of unusually large size.
to Nainsukh is the elongated hunting scene,
in which Balwant Singh and other nobles on
horseback surround a huge and defiant tiger.
Other slightly later works, either by Nainsukh
or his close followers, are the Disrobing of
Draupadi, a restrained and elegant rendering of
a famous scene of thwarted sexual humiliation
from the Mahabharata, set against a boldly
striped durree; and a sensitive fragmentary
study of some Pahari travellers singing by the
The most gifted Pahari artist of the mideighteenth century was Nainsukh of Guler.
For much of his career he worked for the
minor nobleman Balwant Singh of Jasrota,
and the unusually close understanding that
he developed with his patron is evident in his
many intimate and psychologically revealing
studies of the Raja’s daily life. One of the two
works in the collection certainly attributable
 Balwant Singh hunts a tiger
Guler, Punjab Hills, c.1750. Attributed to Nainsukh
 Detail of Elephant’s
Kota, Rajasthan,
Rajasthani Painting
Further creative reinterpretations of Mughal models are found
among the Rajasthani works which comprise more than a third
of the Hodgkin collection. Among the many local court styles of
Rajasthan, Hodgkin has valued above all the animated elephant
drawings and paintings from Kota. From the mid-seventeenth
century onward, Kota elephant and hunting pictures were
unrivalled in their energy of line and sense of mass in motion. Nearly
a century later, the Kota artists’ jungle landscapes, turbulent lakes
and swaying bamboo clumps still seethe with life, as in Madho
Singh hunting boar. Such compositions derive in part from distant
Mughal models, and were also reworked repeatedly in large-scale
palace mural compositions by artists at the neighbouring courts of
Bundi and Kota. Yet in the hands of a master painter they could still
be recreated afresh. This ever renewed creative impulse appears
finally at Kota in the mid-nineteenth century under Ram Singh II,
as in the exuberant scene of his wedding at Udaipur in 1851.
Elsewhere in Rajasthan, Hodgkin has favoured works from a
select group of major and minor courts. There are strong court
and hunting scenes from Udaipur, capital of the ancient dynasty
of Mewar. Dating from c.1700–50, they were painted for the
innovative patron Amar Singh II and his grandson Jagat Singh II.
 Detail from Maharao
Ram Singh’s marriage
procession at Udaipur
Kota, Rajasthan, c.1851
At the minor courts – lesser kingdoms in the Rajput hierarchy,
or else small baronial estates (thikanas) – the weight of dynastic
history and court protocol was less oppressive, and painters
working there could improvise or experiment more freely. At
Kishangarh, the prevalent poetic cult of Krishna and his consort
Radha led to expressive stylisations of figures and faces with a
characteristic elongated eye, as in the fine study of a singing-girl
with a green tanpura.
Rawat Gokul Das at the Singh Sagar is a late masterpiece by the
master Bakhta, who trained at the major court of Udaipur, but
found artistic liberation after moving to work for the Rawats of the
Deogarh thikana in the late 1760s. Less inhibited still than Bakhta
was his son Chokha, an ebullient and eclectic artist who worked
both at Udaipur and Deogarh in the first quarter of the nineteenth
century. Chokha’s large scale Court beauty, painted for Bhim
Singh of Mewar, transforms a standard languorous heroine figure,
typically found in palace mural paintings, into a supercharged,
nubile bombshell with a soulful Kishangarh eye.
 Detail of A court
Udaipur, Rajasthan,
c.1805–10, attributed to
The Hodgkin Collection
While the Hodgkin collection is larger and more diverse than ever,
it continues to reveal a coherent vision, rooted in his sensibility as
an artist, in his long engagement with the country of India, and
in particular themes or technical concerns that have intrigued or
resonated with him. It is worth mentioning again at least three
leading features of the collection, already alluded to: the matter
of size, the interest in drawings, and the prevalence of elephants.
Hodgkin has often acquired unusually big pictures. Most Indian
paintings on paper were made as manuscript illustrations, or else
to be held in the hand and passed round in intimate, appreciative
gatherings of nobles or ladies. There are of course many works
of those kinds in the collection. But many others are of greater
than usual size, some even on the scale of palace wall-paintings,
and their expansiveness undoubtedly lends much to their effect.
Largest and most imposing of all are the two giant Kota drawings
of elephants pushing cannons drawn by bullocks, both of them
powerful, repetitive compositions. (How often, incidentally,
Hodgkin’s favoured themes seem to come represented in pairs or
trios of pictures).
Hodgkin has also collected drawings as keenly as finished
paintings, and often also partly coloured works on a plain
paper ground. His interest in drawings is not surprising, since
draughtsmanship — the mastery of outline and contour above
all — is an essential test of quality in an Indian picture. Indian
artists seldom lacked a sure sense of colour, yet only a few at
any period could draw at a level above the conventional, or take
a received pictorial idea and revivify it as the Kota masters did.
Elephant studies, Hodgkin’s great predilection, in fact reveal
this aptitude most clearly. Even when a painter’s human figures
remain stiffly conventional — as they often do — it was unheard
of for him to produce a lifeless or listless elephant. From earliest
times, Indian painters and sculptors have known how to convey a
warmly sympathetic sense of this royal animal’s massive volumes,
its grace in motion, its noble intelligence and playful charm.
 Detail of Elephants
Kota, Rajasthan,
Collecting Indian paintings has been almost as deep a passion
in Hodgkin’s life as painting, and this exhibition is in a sense a
summation of his collecting. We hope it will inspire, inform and
 Howard Hodgkin
Howard Hodgkin, CH, CBE, was born in 1932. His first
retrospective exhibition Forty-five Paintings, 1949–1975 opened
at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1976. Since then the
Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art,
Fort Worth, the Kunstverein, Dusseldorf and the Hayward Gallery,
London have exhibited his work. In 2006 a major retrospective
opened at Tate Britain in London. It was also seen at the Irish
Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and the Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Recent work has been shown at the Yale Center for British Art and
the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Time and Place 2001–2010
opened at Modern Art Oxford in 2010 and toured to the De Pont
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, and San Diego Museum
of Art, California. Last year he showed new paintings in Oslo
(Peder Lund Gallery) and in New York (Gagosian Gallery).
Howard Hodgkin studied at Camberwell School of Art and Bath
Academy of Art from 1949–1954. He was Artist in Residence
at Brasenose College, Oxford 1976–1977 and was made an
Honorary Fellow in 1988. Oxford University gave him an Honorary
Doctorate in 2000. He represented Britain at the 1984 Venice
Biennale, was awarded the Turner Prize in 1985, and knighted in
He began to collect Indian paintings and drawings while still at
school and made his first visit to India in 1964. “I think my main
reason for going back to India”, he told David Sylvester in 1984,
“is because it is somewhere else”. “Painting in a studio is naturally
a lonely occupation”, he wrote in 1991. “Collecting, on the other
hand, brings with it an almost automatic series of introductions,
social contacts, with dealers, scholars and occasionally with fellow
Dr Andrew Topsfield is Keeper of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean
Museum. Educated at the Universities of Oxford and London, he
worked as an Assistant Keeper in the Indian Department of the
Victoria & Albert Museum from 1978–1984. He then joined the
Ashmolean as Assistant Keeper with responsibility for the Indian,
Himalayan and Southeast Asian collections.
He has written many books, catalogues and articles on Indian
painting and related subjects, particularly on court painting at
Udaipur in Rajasthan during the Mughal and British periods
(c.1560-1940). His books include: The City Palace Museum,
Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar court life (Ahmedabad, 1990; repr.
2009); (with Milo Cleveland Beach), Indian paintings and drawings
from the collection of Howard Hodgkin (New York, 1991; London,
1992; repr. 1994); Court Painting at Udaipur (Zurich, 2002);
Paintings from Mughal India (Oxford, 2008); Visions of Mughal
India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin (Oxford, 2012).
CHK Charities Ltd.
has been supported by CHK Charities Ltd.
The Exhibition Events Programme has been supported by
the Nehru Centre
The Nehru Centre is the cultural wing of the High Commission
of India and is administered by the Indian Council for Cultural
Relations, an autonomous organisation affiliated to the Ministry of
External Affairs, Government of India. It strives to foster a cultural
dialogue between India and the United Kingdom, serving as a
window to the composite culture of India.
In 1989–90, the centenary year of the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru,
the need was voiced for a centre in London which would help
address the cultural aspirations of the Indian community and
facilitate a sustained dialogue between Indian and British cultures.
The Nehru Centre commenced its work in July 1992, with a
programme to mark the centenary of the election of Dadabhai
Naoroji to the House of Commons - the first entry of an Asian
to that body. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the
establishment of The Nehru Centre. During the last 19 years the
Centre has been home to a variety of cultural activities. This has
involved eminent Indian artists visiting the United Kingdom and
Indian artists based in Britain.
For more information please visit
With an introduction and essay by Dr Andrew Topsfield,
the exhibition catalogue provides a superbly illustrated and
comprehensive view of the Hodgkin collection, including many
recently acquired works. Selected writings by Howard Hodgkin
provide reflections on Indian art and his life as a collector.
The catalogue can be purchased in the Ashmolean Shop or online
at: Paperback Price: £25 (£20 with
an exhibition ticket - offer available through the Ashmolean Shop
£6/£4 concessions (including Gift Aid) available at the Museum
or online:
The Ashmolean Museum will host a programme of events in
association with VISIONS OF MUGHAL INDIA, featuring lectures,
talks and tours, and family friendly activities. For more information
The Jameel Study Centre
Visitors are welcome to The Jameel Centre to view the
Ashmolean’s study collections of Eastern Art. The Eastern Art
collections comprise over 30,000 objects spanning 5,000 years.
Highlights include early Chinese greenware ceramics; modern
Chinese painting; Japanese export porcelain and art of the Meiji
period; Islamic ceramics and embroideries; and Indian, Tibetan
and Southeast Asian sculptures and paintings. Temporary
displays from the reserve collections are shown in a six-monthly
rotation outside the Study Centre in Gallery 29.
The Jameel Centre is open to anyone by appointment:
Tue–Fri, 10am–1pm & 2pm–5pm.
T+44 (0)1865 288 107 | [email protected]
Eastern Art Online
The Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art provides online
access to the Ashmolean Museum’s Eastern Art department
collections. As part of the University of Oxford, the collections
hold particular value for teaching and research, but they also
appeal to visitors who may not be as familiar with the material. With
contextual information and high-quality photography, the Eastern
Art Online website opens the collections and enables everyone
to find what they are interested in - whether for research, artistic
inspiration or general curiosity.
The VISIONS OF MUGHAL INDIA exhibition will be available to view
online from 2 February 2012.
 The Buddha
Gandhara, 2nd–3rd
century AD
 Ceiling boss
Southern Rajasthan, 8–9th
century AD
India to AD 600 (Gallery 12)
Explore the early development of Indian art from the artefacts of
the Indus Valley to the Hindu and Buddhist sculpture of north
India and Gandhara. Religion has played a central role in Indian
life and culture for at least four thousand years. Between 500 BC
and AD 500 the major historic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism
and Jainism were developing to maturity. Most surviving works of
art from that period were inspired by their teachings. This gallery
begins by showing the development of early Indian art, from
the Indus Valley Civilization to the first flowering of Hindu and
Buddhist sculpture in the Mathura region of North India. It also
surveys the Buddhist art of the Gandhara region (north Pakistan
and east Afghanistan). Strong Greco-Roman cultural influences in
the north-west gave rise to a naturalistic style of sculpture which
adapted classical models in depictions of the Buddha and his life.
India from AD 600 (Gallery 32)
Explore Hindu, Buddhist and Jain art from India, the Himalayas
and Southeast Asia .‘The divinity draws near willingly if images are
beautiful’ (Vishnudharmottara Purana, AD 500–600). Many of the
Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images in this gallery were once installed
in temple or household shrines as objects of daily devotion and
meditation. They convey the serenity, compassion and supreme
power or insight of deities and enlightened beings. Images like
 Seated Padmapani
Punjba, North India,
6th–8th century
 Mosque tile
Multan, Punjab, 1750–
these remain in use in worship today throughout India, as well as
in the Himalayan region and Southeast Asia, whose cultures were
transformed by the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism. From
AD 600 the form of the temple was developing, within India and
beyond, into a symbolic microcosm of the universe. Towers and
outer walls teem with carved imagery of gods, men, animals and
plants. Distinctive regional styles of sculpture soon developed
throughout the subcontinent. As in earlier times, professional
sculptors often worked for patrons of different faiths, so that
Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images may share a similar regional style.
Mughal India 1500–1900 (Gallery 33)
Discover the paintings and decorative arts of the most powerful
and lasting of the Islamic dynasties in India - that of the Mughal
emperors. Founded by Babur in 1526, the empire was consolidated
by his grandson Akbar (1556–1605). Ruling from Agra, Delhi, and
Lahore, Akbar and his successors became lavish and innovative
patrons of art and architecture. For over a century, the Mughal
court arts achieved a brilliant synthesis of Persian, Indian, and
European styles. In Europe, the ‘Great Mogul’ became a byword
for absolute power and courtly magnificence. Mughal artistic
influence also spread to the provincial courts of the Deccani
sultans and the Hindu Rajputs. By the 1760s, the empire was in
decline and the British East India Company had begun to dominate
the subcontinent. The arts of this later, ‘Company’ period show
increasingly strong European features.
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest public museum
and possibly the oldest museum in the world. In 2009 it reopened
following a £61 million redevelopment. The new Ashmolean
building, designed by award-winning architect Rick Mather,
has received universal acclaim and numerous awards. It houses
39 new galleries, including the new special exhibition galleries,
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a second phase of redevleopment in 2011 with the opening of
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visited museum in the country outside London. Admission is free.
 Detail of Portrait of
an Unknown Man
Anonymous artist.
Work on loan to the
english prize exhibition
© Museo de la Real
Academia de Bellas
Artes de San Fernando,
The Ashmolean holds an exciting programme of major exhibitions
and small displays throughout the year in its special exhibition
centre and in galleries around the Museum. The 2012 programme
includes the major exhibition THE ENGLISH PRIZE: THE CAPTURE
OF THE WESTMORLAND (17 May–27 Aug), the story of an armed
merchant ship destined for England laden with artistic treasures,
which was captured by the French. Among the special displays
are YAKUSHA-E - Japanese Kabuki prints from the 19th-century
to contemporary works (until 4 March); GUERCINO: A PASSION
ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM (11 Feb–15 Apr); and ART AT THE EDGE newly commissioned bronze sculptures celebrating Olympic sport
(19 Mar–20 May). For more information visit: www.ashmolean.
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