National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Frank S. M. Hodsoll last night praised a gathering of wealthy Washington art patrons at the Corcoran Gallery for their "spirit of giving," then later said in an interview he has "no plans" to revive a grant program that helped the museum buy many of the paintings and most of the photographs displayed there.

The program, which has given the Corcoran $110,000 over eight years to buy works of modern American artists and photographers, was axed last year in anticipation of deep Reagan administration budget cuts for the endowment that never materialized.

Nevertheless, Hodsoll said he doesn't plan to revive the program "at our current budget . . . We feel we have to concentrate on collection maintenance, catalogues and special exhibits." The program, which made grants to about 70 museums in its last year, was eliminated before Hodsoll's arrival at the NEA from the White House, where he was a top presidential assistant.

Last year, the Corcoran received nine NEA grants totaling $148,200, including $15,000 under the now dead "museum purchase plan." Officers of the Corcoran, the major private art museum in Washington, said they hoped the program would be revived.

"I think it's a good program, but I also realize the federal budgeting constraints are serious at the present time," said Gilbert H. Kinney, a lifetime trustee of the museum and chairman of its works of art committee. "I hope as more funds become available that this type of program would be reinstituted."

Jane Livingston, the Corcoran's associate director and chief curator, said, "It was one of the backbone programs and I don't understand why it was cut.The grants support the artists, the living artists directly, you know."

Nevertheless, she said, "I think Frank Hodsoll is a true arts advocate."

In brief remarks at the reception honoring about 150 donors to the museum's current exhibition, "Acquisitions Since 1975," Hodsoll said art museums in America are, to a larger extent than in Europe, supported by "public-spirited citizens" who want to "make art available to the people."

Earlier, Livingston took Hodsoll on a tour of the exhibit, which includes works by 120 American artists from the 18th century to the present, plus a large collection of photographs.