Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two London exhibitions for David Hockney

Yesterday David Hockney was photographed with his muse Celia Birtwell in front of one of his most famous paintings of her and her then husband (and cat) "Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy". Today a new exhibition of work by David Hockney opens at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The NPG asserts that "David Hockney Portraits - Life Love Art" is the first exhibition of Hockney portraits in 50 years. It includes portraits of family, friends, lovers and himself and has arrived in London from the exhibitions held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Los Angeles County Museum of Art earlier this year.
Featuring over 150 works across different media from the now iconic early double portraits to recent paintings produced especially for the exhibition, David Hockney Portraits reveals how the artist's creative development and concerns about representation can be traced through his portrait work.
I guess the NPG means the first exhibition totally devoted to Hockney's portraiture in all media - painting, drawing, photocollage and prints.

The exhibition 'David Hockney - A Drawing Retrospective', an exhibition of his drawings that I visited at the Royal Academy of Arts (Nov. 1995 - Jan. 1996), included very many of the pencil drawings of his family, friends and lovers. One of the reasons I like Hockney is because he has such a high regard for drawing apparently derived from his early training in Bradford. I gather he went through a phase of drawing according to the principles of American Abstract Expressionism at the Royal College of Art - drawings which represented feelings - but gave that up as a barren place to be. Anyway, he opened the Summer exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art this year and placed an emphasis on drawing as having fundamental importance in the world of art - as related in the BBC online interview with him "Taking Art back to the basics"

Until 28th October, the Annely Juda Gallery (4th Floor, 23 Dering Street, off New Bond Street) is showing another David Hockney exhibition - this time of "A Year in Yorkshire". The gallery's website has small images of all the works on show in colours that are so very different to those associated with his Californian landscapes.
Hockney painted these works over the last year from July 2005. The paintings span the four seasons through the scorched landscape of summer, the autumn mists, frozen winter scenes and the blossoming of spring. They were painted in East Yorkshire, outside in the countryside he knows and loves so well. (Annely Juda Gallery)
I've always thought that Hockney is intrinsically interested in line and pattern - especially in landscapes. To my mind this set of oil paintings reinforce that view.

You can see more of his work on his website This also includes an excellent illustrated chronology of the artist - one of the best that I have ever seen. (and for those who read my recent diatribe about websites which just begin with the artist's name - this is one of the few exceptions I think deserves that particular approach. A pity then that the link on the NPG website neatly circumvents the next page - an agreement that by entering the site you agree to recognise Hockney's copyright over his own images!)

I can highly recommend the Johnathan Jones' interview with David Hockney as reported in the Guardian (08.09.06) "Cooler than Warhol and more enduring than Freud". It's a really fascinating read about the man who lived in California for 40 years but who never gets tired of sketching the wide open spaces of Yorkshire or staying in Bridlington.

Another good read is the Bloomberg interview by Martin Gayford David Hockney: Why I Paint Instead of Just Picking Up a Camera who quotes Hockney as saying
Everything Hockney does is about seeing what's around us, and seeing it better. Recently, he went out in the Yorkshire countryside, where he has been painting for the past two years, and stopped his car beside the road. ``I took one of those Japanese sketchbooks and I'd draw different grasses in the hedgerow. After 2 1/2 hours I'd filled the sketchbook, and after that I saw that hedgerow a great deal more clearly.''

``If you'd just photographed it, you wouldn't be looking in that way. Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer and clearer still, until your eyes ache. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory -- where it stays -- and it's transmitted by your hands.'' That way of working, in Hockney's view, is well worth preserving.
Catalogues for both exhibitions are available from the respective websites. The hardback catalogue for the Drawing Retrospective is still available from dealers through Amazon UK but is not available in the USA - and I'm not selling my copy!

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Cin said...

thank you so much for this post!! I have looked every so often for an "official" website on Hockney but have never found one, I am so tickled to finally discover it because of your link! And what a treat his site is! The most disappointing part of going to this exhibit were his sketchbooks under glass, only able to show just one page, how I wished to be able to flip through the whole book. And now I can!! Did you see on his site the slideshow of two of his sketchbooks? Yipee, now I can finally see every page, again many thanks Katherine for showing me!

Chuck Law said...

Thankyou so much for these links, Katherine.
David Hockney is one of my all time favorite artists. I was so dissapointed when I had read that this show of his portraits was only going to be in Boston and LA here in the states. Was unable to get to either I'm afraid. As much as I love his drawings, paintings and digital work it was seeing his photo collages back in the early eighties that stunned me. They made me realize one could actually show the nature of "seeing" in artwork. I never tire of looking at them ( this from someone who is quite bored by most photography ) Now I'm anxious to view the works from his 'Year in Yorkshire' had forgotten about that.
A great way to bring my mind back to art after a day of flowers!


Chuck Law said...

One more comment Katherine, if I may. The Yorkshire paintings I was hoping to view were the watercolour series that he did back in 1998. I didn't realize so much time had passed since reading about them. Had hoped to find a link to these luck, but great fun looking. I also read a recent article about him in Smithsonian magazine pertaining to the portrait exhibit. My favorite part was the photo of his series of dachsund paintings and drawings...wonderful work!

Katherine said...

Cin and Chuck - I might have guessed you two were Hockneyphiles!

Cin - you and me both - and isn't it just! I've searched forever for this site - and I wonder whether it's new to go with the exhibition.

Chuck - do you mean like this painting of Garrowby Hill (which I realise is in oil)? (copyright Hockney)

I'll see what I can find for you by way of reference when I go and see the exhibition.

I am however having a very good time rereading my copy of the "The Drawing Retrospective" catalogue! ;)

Cin said...


might these be the watercolors chuckl is looking for?

L.A. Louver gallery

you have to scroll right to see the images, be sure to click on the slide show links at the bottom of the bottom row of paintings

Katherine said...

Cin / Chuck: well done Cin - and Chuck you're in for a treat!
Now I've got a name for the exhibition, I've found it on his website and you get a slideshow thrown in!

Here it is

I remember the watercolours now - but I don't seem to recall them ever being exhibited like this in England. Odd.

Chuck Law said...

Thankyou Katherine
I love these. I feel a such a sense of honesty and simplicity ( as with his line drawings )in this series. While I often like his use of vivid color in painting I think it detracts a bit with the current Yorkshire least in comparison to the watercolors.
Thankyou both again

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