Howard Hodgkin’s last major painting, unbelievable

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Sir Howard Hodgkin’s last major painting – a large and “extraordinary” self-portrait – is going on display for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery. The celebrated British painter died earlier this month at the age of 84, as the gallery was preparing for the first exhibition of his portraits. He painted Portrait Of The Artist Listening To Music, completing the “deeply personal” work just before his death, for the new exhibition. Curators said the oil-on-wood painting memorialises the “act of remembering” in paint.

Sir Howard, who was renowned for his abstract works and for painting from memory rather than direct observation, worked on the image while listening to recordings of two pieces of his favourite music continuously, associated with earlier times in his life. They were Jerome Kern’s The Last Time I Saw Paris, published in 1940, and the zither music from the 1949 film The Third Man, composed and performed by Anton Karas. Opening on Thursday, Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends is the first exhibition devoted to the portraits of the great British painter.

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