Woman of Substance

KINGDOMS OF RICHES

It’s no guarantee that a personal passion can elicit a universal admiration, but such is the case with the collection of British artist Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017). Over the course of 60 years, Hodgkin formed a collection of Indian paintings and drawings recognized as one of the finest of its kind. A highly regarded painter and printmaker himself, Hodgkin collected works from the Mughal, Deccani, Rajput, and Pahari courts dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries—personal acquisitions that reflect his passion for Indian art. Some of the finest examples of this work—an eclectic assemblage that includes portraits, palace scenes, royal hunts, devotional subjects, and nature studies—are on display through June 9th at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The exhibition, “Indian Skies: The Howard Hodgkin Collection of Indian Court Painting,” presents a unique and personal vision of India’s great painting tradition through newly acquired works from the artist’s collection. The show features over 100 examples of Indian court paintings assembled by Hodgkin during a lifetime of collecting.

“The richness and diversity of Indian culture are expressed in its painting traditions,” explains Navina Najat Haidar, who co-curated the Met’s exhibition with John Guy. “The golden era dawned from the 16th century in the Mughal age from 1526 to 1858.” Haider, Curator in Charge of the Department of Islamic Art, emphasizes that this period was also the age of the artist as, for the first time, the names of individual painters were attached to the works, whereas they were formerly rendered as anonymous creations. Painters broke new ground illustrating ancient and modern texts with fresh visions; creating finely observed portraits and nature studies; evoking gods, goddesses, mythological scenes, and more, developing techniques shared with artists in Iran, Turkey, and even China and Europe.

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WRITTEN BY EDWARD MCCANN

This story appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of MILIEU.