Howard Hodgkin, the Unlikely Collector of Indian Art

The late British artist amassed one of the most notable subcontinental troves. To this day, we know little about their rightful owners.

Maharaj Bakhat Singh, 2022.238
Maharaj Bakhat Singh (India, Rajasthan, Nagaur, ca. 1735); Opaque watercolor and gold on paper Howard Hodgkin Collection, Purchase, Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, by exchange, 2022 (Courtesy of the Met)

Ayesha Le Breton


January 25, 2024


11 min

In 1946, Howard Hodgkin, a mere schoolboy, purchased a 17th-century “Indo-Persian” painting from Aurangabad, India. “Very brightly colored, very pretty, of people sitting around in a garden, drinking wine, and lolling about in fanciful positions,” he once described the artwork. “It was not a very good picture, but I supposed a reasonably respectable picture for a beginner [collector].” Little did the 14-year-old know that this purchase would be the first of many — over 120 — in his lifelong admiration of Indian art. Today, the late Hodgkin is one of England’s most celebrated contemporary artists. But, most curiously, he also amassed “one of the finest” collections of Indian paintings, which the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is set to exhibit in February. The Brit always intended to share his acquisitions, so they traveled worldwide but never returned home to India. His collection reminds us that it takes privilege to accrue such a trove and never once dig deeper into its origins.

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in