On Saturday, 27 July 2013, Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin - an exhibition of Indian paintings from the outstanding private collection of the artist Howard Hodgkin opened at National Museum Cardiff
. It includes an exciting new addition to the collection, on display for the first time.
Previsously shown at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the show brings this exceptional collection of Indian art to Wales for the first time. It includes a large scale temple hanging painted on cloth, showing four young maidens dancing in a forest - the recently discovered missing pair to a similar work that has been in the Hodgkin collection for many years. These two beautiful hangings are being exhibited together for the first time in Cardiff.
Hodgkin has been a passionate collector of Indian paintings since his school days and his collection has long been considered one of the finest of its kind in the world. At times he has devoted almost as much effort to developing his collection as to his own work as a painter.
The collection comprises most of the main types of Indian court painting that flourished during the Mughal period (c. 15501850), including the refined naturalistic works of the imperial Mughal court; the poetic and subtly coloured paintings of the Deccani Sultanates; and the boldly drawn and vibrantly coloured styles of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.
Above all, this is a personal collection, formed by an artists eye. Artistic quality has always mattered most to Hodgkin the narrative content and other aspects of paintings far less. All his Indian pictures are of an unusual or exceptional quality. They include illustrations of epics and myths, royal portraits and many scenes of court life or hunting scenes. There is also a large and outstanding group of elephant portraits and studies of the Mughal and Kota schools.
Some of the works in the collection vividly evoke the urban or daily life of India, a country which has inspired Hodgkin on his frequent visits made over some 50 years. There is also great diversity in these pictures, some containing exciting passages or juxtapositions of colour, as can also be found in Hodgkins own work. But many others are lightly coloured brush drawings which show an expressive mastery of line.
"My collection has been seen before ...but its since grown considerably. Now Im struck all over again by its quality... I never bought paintings or drawings on the tempting but distracting basis of their topography, their school of art, their theme, period or style. I just wanted great art," said Howard Hodgkin.