© The Artist


Howard Hodgkin (1932 – 2017)


Accession number
P/Commissioned work


The Indian architect and RIBA gold medallist, Charles Correa, was commissioned to design a new building for the British Council in Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi. The building was formally opened in October 1992 and houses the British Council’s largest overseas operation. The five-storey building, with interior and exterior spaces flowing into one another through the use of courtyards, pillars and fountains, was designed to reflect a conceptual progression of the history of India. Read more about Correa and see plans, elevations and photographs of the building at www.charlescorrea.net.

Commissioned by Visual Arts Department to create a new work for the building, Howard Hodgkin collaborated closely with the architect in the production of a magnificent mural for the front façade. The mural is constructed of small, rectangular, hand-cut tiles of white Makrana marble, and black, locally quarried Cuddappah stone – a technique often employed on Mughal buildings.

Hodgkin wrote that his first concern ‘was to make a design which would change with dramatically when seen from different points of view and thus display the complexity of internal space in the façade of Charles Correa’s splendid building.

The moving shadow cast by a large tree seemed an appropriate image for a library and meeting place. I am not a symbolic artist and symbols on buildings often lose their meaning quite quickly but as a symbol a tree is universal and embraces both life and knowledge.

The tree is not of any particular species but I like what one of the contractors said, that the mural shows ‘the shadows cast by a giant banyan tree waving in the wind’.