David Hockney

 

David Hockney, British born 1937

 

A review of the artist’s work at the Metropolitan in New York by way of the Tate in London and the Pompidou in Paris.

 

The artist was born in the Yorkshire city of Bradford to a family whom he described as ‘radical working class’. 

That is non-conformist and Non-Conformist: a group of people determined, against overwhelming odds and for generations, to the ends of their political emancipation and religious autonomy.  His mother was a devout Methodist.  His father a conscientious objector during the war, a man of pronounced opinions and an activist, and a sharp dresser.

 

 

David Hockney and his parents.  Image taken from the web. Date TBD but probably before 1964.

 

 

I very much appreciate the artist’s dual portraits and his drawn single portraits.  I am interested in how the artist, with an economy of vocabulary and in a kind of distilled stillness, transmits his understanding of the relationship of two people to each other and to their world.

I like the physical distance between these people, the quality of near-explosion in the pauses in the conversation if not the outright battlefield silence while the next-phase skirmishing is being prepared.   The love, the commitment, the regard (sometimes not, sometimes the imbalance of power, the frustration) under the surface always there.  But these are probably biases of an English upbringing and I can hear my artist friends say:  Sarah, be reasonable.  What has this to do with the art itself?

 

For the rest, my appreciation of the artist’s work is more influenced by my politics than by any aesthetics.

 

I think his early experimental work ho-hum and especially so in the context of developments in the art world in Great Britain and the United States at that time.

I think his photographic experiments a pale reprise of the adventures of Cubism and decades late.

And his late, exuberant interiors and landscapes somewhat narrow in style, vision and palette, glorious as are their colours, and original the hues of an English landscape, and English countryside. 

Nor do I understand why the range of colours in his IPAD art is limited given the vastnesses available in software.

 

But it rejoices me very much that this talented son of a ‘radical working class’ English family has been so successful in conventional terms.

Because systems of class starve, waste and destroy large amounts of human potential.  And the British class system, which lets through a dribble of Davids (Bowie, Hockney) in each generation, is an efficient and long-lived vampyrical exemplar.

 

I am ecstatically comforted to see how the golden thread of our Western artistic tradition drew a young man out into such bright sunlight to make of his life what he would.  Californian sun, with a weather system originating in the grey rain of Yorkshire, to be sure! 

Because, even if art never saved anyone’s life, art, all art, all expressions of the human spirit secure the sanity of many of us in these wild wicked times. 

 

 

 

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Self-portrait, 30th September, 1983, charcoal on paper.  National Portrait Gallery, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

David Hockney moved to London for graduate work at the Royal College of Art in London.  He graduated in 1962 already well-known and well represented in the art market.

 

The artist has lived as though he were always free. As though he was always free, perhaps, because he was.

He has painted what and how he wanted to.  He not only never hid his homosexuality but homosexuality was the explicit and implicit subject of his work before even it was decriminalized in Great Britain (1967).

 

 

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Tyger, oil on masonite, 1960.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum in 2017/18

The museum’s note Jackson Pollock’s work as the base inspiration of this painting’s style.  ‘Tyger’ is a reference to the William Blake poem.

 

 

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Love, oil on masonite, 1960.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2016/2017

 

 

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Shame and detail, oil on masonite.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2017/18

 

This freedom the artist has exercised through a life of the usual intermittent pain and aggravation of any life;  and the unusual grief from the deaths of a large number of his friends, acquaintances and associates, overwhelmingly young men, from diseases associated with AIDS.

 

 

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Cleaning Teeth, Early Evening, 10 pm, W11, 1962, and detail, oil on canvas. Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway, on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18.

The museum’s notes remind that homosexuality was legalized in Great Britain in 1967, five years after this explicit portrait of homosexual love.

 

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The Third Love Painting, and detail, 1960, oil on masonite.  Tate Gallery loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2016/2017

 

 

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The Cha Cha That Was Danced in the Early Hours of 24th March, 1961, and detail, oil on canvas.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2016/17.

An ode to the ‘beautiful’ Peter Crutch who was dancing that night.

 

 

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Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style, and detail, 1961, oil on canvas.  Tate Gallery, London, loaned to the Metropolitan Museum in 2017/18

 

 

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The First Marriage (A Marriage of Styles I), and detail, 1962, oil on canvas.  Tate Gallery, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18.

On a trip to Berlin with a friend, notes the museum, the artist, separated from his friend, found him standing next to a pharaonic figure at the Pergamon Musuem.  The idea of this painting of two figures represented in different styles came from this.

 

 

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Man in a Museum (Or You’re in the Wrong Movie), and detail, 1962, oil on canvas.  British Council Collection loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18.

The juxtaposition, again, of two styles.

 

 

 

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Domestic Scene, Los Angeles, and detail, 1963, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18 (with shadow intereference from within the gallery).

An imagining of a domestic scene before the artist had yet reached Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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Play on Play, 1963, oil on Plexiglass on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

The museum proposes that this is a tapestry-like painting, based on 14th century frescoes the artist had seen, in which his art dealer, Jon Kasmin, is pinned between an illusionistic space of a theatrical backdrop and a pane of plexiglass which covers the center-right of this painting.

 

 

The artist left his country for California in 1964.  Its sun has drenched his work since.

Since 1964, the artist has moved back to England several times, to Paris in the mid-70s and back to California more than once.  He lives there now.

 

 

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Arizona, 1964, acrylic on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians, 1965, acrylic on canvas.  Loaned by the Scottish National Gallery of Art, Edinburgh to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, and detail, 1965, acrylic on canvas.  Arts Council Collection,  Southbank Centre, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2017/2018

The museum notes that this is a portrait of the artist’s father surrounded by references to the work of Kenneth Noland, Cezanne, perhaps Picasso and perhaps Francis Bacon.

 

 

 

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California Art Collector and detail, 1964.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

The museum notes that this is the artist’s take on the houses of art collectors whom he met after his arrival in Los Angeles in 1964.

 

 

 

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The Hypnotist, 1963, and detail,  oil on canvas.  Private collection loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

This painting, the museum notes, is among the first in which the artist, began to experiment with the emotional and visual space between people in the same canvas.

 

 

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Man in Shower in Beverly Hills and detail, 1964, acrylic on canvas, 1964.  Tate Gallery on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/2018

A commemoration of the American love of showers.

 

 

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A Lawn Being Sprinkled, acrylic on canvas and detail, 1967.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/2018

 

 

 

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Savings and Loan Building, acrylic on canvas, and detail, 1967.  Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC on loan to the Metropolitan Museum in 2017/18

One of the earliest of the artist’s California paintings, the artist approaches minimalism in this image.

 

 

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A Bigger Splash, acrylic on canvas, and detail, 1961.  Tate Gallery, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

Based on a image in a book, this is one of three paintings in which the artist is presenting a particular, affluent California lifestyle in which the only lively element is the water:  the relationship between the water and a building.

 

 

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The Room, Tarzana, 1967, and detail, acrylic on canvas.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18.

Peter Schlesinger, a student at UCLA, the artist’s lover whom he met in 1966.

 

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Pool and Steps, Le Nid du Duc, 1971, acrylic on canvas, and detail. Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18. 

The house and pool of the director Tony Richardson.  The shoes are those of Peter Schlesinger.

 

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Rubber Ring Floating in a Swimming Pool, 1971, acrylic on canvas, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

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Mount Fuji and Flowers, 1972, acrylic on canvas, and detail. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Painted in London after a visit to Mount Fuji in 1971.

 

 

 

Double Portraits between 1968 and 1981

In all such work, the artist attempted a casual and a formal portrayal, in all stillness, in which there is some insight into the relationship of the subjects to each other.

 

 

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Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, 1968-1969.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Henry Geldzahler (1935-1994) worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as curator for American Art and then the first curator for 20th Century Art.  He originated the Met’s institutional efforts in the area of modern art.  Emotive, then, the inclusion of this painting in this exhibition, for many of the Met’s staff.

 

 

 

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Looking at Pictures on a Screen, 1977, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/2018 (with shadow interference)

 

 

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My Parents, 1977, oil on canvas, and detail. Tate Gallery, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

The artist began this painting and then stopped and began it again when his father asked how, after so many sittings, it could be stopped.

A painting of the artist’s native household: sparse, pristine, things so much in their appointed place that you expect that, in a moment, everything might start levitating in their own non-conformism.

 

A certain tension between his parents apparent in their feet and shoes.  Her right foot is curled slightly inwards and touches her left shoe as if for comfort or assurance.  The soles of his feet, in shoes polished like mirrors, are slightly off the ground, carefully, almost self-consciously but in no way deferential to anyone.  Her hair is QE2.   Her whole manner that of a queen in her own house.  His body is alert to the information that he is seeking and to any disturbance in his castle.

The artist was in France when he completed this painting. The museum proposes that the book about the painter Chardin is meant to make a direct link of the artist’s art to his own people.

A poignant painting and widely known in England. Touched my heart. 

 

 

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Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy, 1971, acrylic on canvas, and detail. Tate Gallery, London on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18.

Ossie Clark (British, 1942-1996) and Celia Birtwhistle (British textile designer, born 1941) socially prominent designers, friends of the artists whom he painted – with difficulty especially Ossie’s head – on the occasion of their marriage.

 

 

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Celia in a Black Dress with White Flowers, 1972, crayon on paper.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2017/18.

 

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Ossie Wearing a Fairisle Sweater, 1970, crayon on paper.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

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Andy, Paris, 1974, graphite on paper.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman), 1968, acrylic on canvas, and detail.  The Art Institute of Chicago on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18.

The museum notes that the artist disliked commissions but offered to paint the two together because he was interested in their relationship to each other. Mrs. Weisman chose never to hang this painting.

In light of this, one can speculate not only about Mr. Weisman’s ramrod posture and fabricated phallic shadow,  but also the paint dripping out of his clenched fist.

 

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Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, 1968, acrylic on canvas, and detail.  Private collection loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18.

Christopher Ishwerood, American born England, 1904-1986, novelist.  Don Bachardy, American, portrait artist, born 1934.

The museum notes that the artist considered that the complex relationship between the two men was an intellectually and emotionally successful one and he was fascinated by it. 

The museum says it is Isherwood who is looking towards Bachardy who is looking at us.  

 

 

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Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), acrylic on canvas, and detail, 1972.  David Hockney, British born 1937.  The Lewis Collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Contre-Jour in the French Style (Against the Day dans le style francais), 1974, oil on canvas, and detail.  Ludwig Museum-Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2017/18.

The museum notes that the artist moved to Paris in 1973 and made a study of contre-jour using pointillism.

 

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Kerby (After Hogarth), 1975, oil on canvas, and detail.   MOMA, NY on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

The museum notes that the artist, following William Hogarth (1697-1764), made an experimental painting of the effects of paying no attention to perspective.

 

 

 

Photographic Collages

The artist began experimenting with photographic collages in 1982: photographic images juxtaposed, arranged or overlain in various ways to continue his investigation of perspective and composition and also to represent motion. 

 

 

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Celia.  Los Angeles. April 10th, 1982, composite Polaroid, and detail.  Collection of the artist loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Gregory Swimming.  Los Angeles.  March 31, 1982, and detail. Collection of the artist loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

 

 

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Pearblossom Highway,  11th-18th April, 1986 #1, 1986, chromogenic print, and detail, loaned by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/2018

 

 

Recent Paintings

The artist’s paintings since the early 1980’s have become brighter and more insistent.

 

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Nichols Canyon, 1980, acrylic on canvas and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Hollywood Hills House, 1981-82, oil, charcoal and collage on canvas, and detail. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18.

The museum notes that this is a memory of the first house in which the artist lived in Hollywood Hills and he painted it on a visit to a rainy England.

 

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Large Interior, Los Angeles, 1988, oil, ink on cut-and-pasted paper on canvas and detail.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

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Outpost Drive, Hollywood, 1980, acrylic on canvas and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

 

 

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Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica, 1990, oil on canvas, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

The  museum notes that this is a translation into paint of a journey with friends by road through the Santa Monica Mountains with Richard Wagner running in the car

 

 

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Breakfast at Malibu, Sunday, 1989, oil on canvas, and detail. Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

A view from a house on the Malibu beach which the artist bought in the late 1980s

 

 

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The Road Across the Wolds, 1997, oil on canvas and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

 

 

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Going out Garrowby Hill, 2000, oil on canvas, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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The Road to Thwing, 2006, oil on canvas, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2018

 

 

 

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View Towards the Rectory, East Bergholt,  1810, oil on canvas on woodpanel.  John Constable, 1776-1837, English.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

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A Closer Winter Tunnel, February/March 2006, oil on canvas, detail. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Elderflower Blossom, Kilham, July 2006, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

 

 

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Hawthorn Blossom near Ruddston, oil on canvas, 2008, and detail.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2018

 

 

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Colorado River, 1998, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Red Pots in the Garden, 2000, acrylic on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

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Garden with Blue Terrace, acrylic on canvas and detail, 2015.  Private collection on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017/18

 

 

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Interior with Blue Terrace and Garden, 2017, acrylic on canvas and detail.  Collection of the artist on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

 

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A Bigger Interior with Blue Terrace, 2017, acrylic on canvas and detail. Collection of the artist on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2017/18

 

 

IPAD Art

The artist has recently taken to using the IPAD to create images

 

 

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