Howard Hodgkin's India at The Hepworth

The big news the other day, in Yorkshire and even nationally, was that The Hepworth won Art Fund's Museum of the Year award. Despite having been assured by friends how much we would enjoy it, P and I had never got round to checking it out. On reading further we were excited to discover the gallery was currently featuring the work of Howard Hodgkin, whose work we've both long admired, so an exhibition of paintings inspired by his lifelong fascination with India was something we couldn't miss. Half an hour later we found ourselves in the car hurtling down the M1 towards Wakefield!

(India) I couldn't work without it - Howard Hodgkin

The Hepworth is designed by David Chipperfield

From the moment we parked the car I had a good feeling about it. On the other side of the road, the building's imposing grey outline emerged from behind the trees on the far bank of the River Calder, angular concrete slabs rising out of the water, welcoming us. From the footbridge a pleasing mix of old and new; derelict warehouses, long abandoned commercial barges, contemporary domestic narrowboats and a disused scrapyard, all softened by rampant Himalayan balsam, buddleias in profusion and a massive weeping willow. The eye is bombarded with colour, like suddenly seeing the world in flamboyant technicolour, blowing away the greyish-monochrome stereotype of the typical Northern city. 

Top marks too for positioning the coffee shop as you go in -
two Americanos and a lemon polenta slice and we were ready to go 

The cafe had quite a buzz about it, with tables inside and out. Full of bright young professionals (who seemed to be there for no other reason than it's a great place to meet), photographers (after all it was the day they won the big prize) as well as folks like us who were there specifically to view the exhibitions. After a fortifying coffee and cake we were raring to discover what gems inside the gallery. Here's a few favourites:

This one is for the textile buffs - a hand-knotted rug made from
Persian wool, based on a painting by Hodgkin

Howard Hodgkin had a wonderful way of including the frame in the picture, seen here in this next batch of works.

These were just a few of his many fabulous works on display. Walking around the galleries was a hugely uplifting experience - such a treat to have an insight into Hodgkin's vision of India. 

But we couldn't leave without seeing some of the work of the artist whose name the gallery bears. To say Barbara Hepworth was a talented woman is as obvious as night follows day. She was a superb master of her art and craft. One of the things I most enjoyed was to see the process explained as well as the finished pieces. Her tools had P drooling, and even I, who am not an afficionado of such things, but do appreciate quality and having the best possible tools to hand, had to admire the beauty of them.

The sculptor at work in her studio

Barbara Hepworth's work presents so many different textures, shapes, forms and perspectives. I wondered what she might have thought of this class of schoolchildren (child and teacher framed in the piece above),  each choosing one of her sculptures to draw. On glancing at a few of these works in progress, it was striking how different the interpretations were, depicted through each individual child's eyes.

Finally I wanted to give you a further flavour of the environs of the museum. 

Daily life on the River Calder

Mixture of decaying hulls and contemporary houseboat

This old boat with its mooring rope is completely consumed by rampant weeds

This scrapyard appears to be making quite a splash with an
up-cycled sculpture of their own 

Disused warehouse on the other side of the river

And finally, here's a view out of one of the windows of the musuem. Much thought has gone into making every vista interesting whether it be big or small. This one looks out on a beautiful old brick mill.

Hope you've enjoyed my virtual tour, we had a great time and I'm so glad we eventually got there.


  1. Jean, I thoroughly enjoyed going on this tour with you. I have been and am a tremendous fan of Howard Hodgkin and am sure I'd love to see this exhibit...I do recognize the paintings in your photographs. Yes, his having his paintings' frames in the pictures is something i always liked, together with the paintings' titles.
    The Hepworth exhibit and the museum itself look great and well deserving of the award. I bet that the nearby empty old warehouses will soon be developed into expensive real estate properties. So it goes. I'm glad that you and P were able to visit while there still seems to be quite a bit of real art and real life in the vicinity. xo

    1. Glad you enjoyed it too Frances! I'm looking forward to our next visit 😀 x

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