Monday, May 13, 2019

David Hockney: Drawing from Life (2020) at the National Portrait Gallery

I'm very much looking forward to David Hockney: Drawing from Life - at the National Portrait Gallery in early 2020.

David Hockney Self Portrait, March 14 2012,
iPad drawing printed on paper Exhibition Proof 37 x 28"
© David Hockney

The NPG last week announced that they would be staging the first major exhibition devoted to David Hockney’s drawings in over twenty years.

The exhibition will run 27 February – 28 June 2020.

I remember extremely clearly visiting the last exhibition of his drawings in London. 
'David Hockney - A Drawing Retrospective' at the Royal Academy of Arts (Nov. 1995 - Jan. 1996) - and indeed still have the catalogue prominent in my bookshelves. It had a big impact on me and the regard I have for the use of coloured pencils to make drawings as fine art.

 David Hockney Celia, Carennac, August 1971, 
coloured pencil on paper 17 x 14"
© David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt Collection The David Hockney Foundation; D
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"

What's the Hockney exhibition at the NPG about?


Hockney is recognised as one of the master draughtsmen of our times and a champion of the medium. NPG
The exhibition will focus on
  • Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now
  • include 150 works from public and private collections across the world - and his own collection - with five main groups of drawings
  • self portraits over time
  • his depictions of his family and close friends
    • his muse, Celia Birtwell;
    • his mother, Laura Hockney; and
    • his friends - the curator, Gregory Evans and master printer, Maurice Payne.
In doing so, it will seek to trace the trajectory of his drawing practice over a period of five decades. 

...it will examine not only how drawing is fundamental to the artist’s distinctive way of observing the world around him, but also how it has often been a testing ground for ideas and modes of expression later played out in his paintings. 

The exhibition will also include some previously unseen work - new portraits of some of the sitters and drawings which have previously never been shared in public!

I'm a big David Hockney fan and can activate a mental video in my head of most of his past exhibitions by just thinking about the title of the exhibition and which gallery it was at. I can even remember which drawing or painting I spent ages staring at! I'm a particular fan of his drawings and even contacted the website to find out how to get a hold of copy of his facsimile sketchbook as seen at the last Hockney Portraits exhibition at the NPG in 2006.
"What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing; you wouldn't be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought"
David Hockney / David Hockney Portraits - from the 2006 NPG exhibition

Hopefully we'll see more facsimile sketchbooks this time round?

Which media will the exhibition include?


David Hockney Mother, Bradford. 19 Feb 1979Sepia ink on paper 14 x 11 inches
© David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt Collection The David Hockney Foundation;

It's going to include traditional drawing media and equipment

  • his drawings, sketches and portraits rendered in pen and ink, pencil, pastel and watercolour 
  • working drawings for his pivotal A Rake’s Progress etching suite (1961-63), inspired by the identically named series of prints by William Hogarth (1697-64)
  • sketchbooks from Hockney’s art school days in Bradford in the 1950s.
“It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with David Hockney on a second exhibition for the National Portrait Gallery. For the first time, Drawing from Life presents a series of jewel-like portraits of four subjects dear to David’s heart, as well as self-portraits dating from his school-boy days in the 1950s right up to his self-scrutiny of the new millennium. This intimate journey in line demonstrates and celebrates the master draughtsman that David remains to this day.”Sarah Howgate, Curator of David Hockney: Drawing from Life

plus drawings made using contemporary media and technologies
  • his drawings using apps on the iPhone and iPad e.g. of the East Yorkshire Wolds - near his Yorkshire home (I discovered Brushes via David Hockney!)
  • his artworks created from photos created using a Polaroid camera in the 80s
 David Hockney Gregory. Los Angeles. March 31st 1982,
composite polaroid 14 1/2 x 13 1/4"
© David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt; 

I'm very much looking forward to it. I predict it will be a blockbuster if other Hockney exhibitions of his portraits and drawings are anything to go by!


David Hockney: Drawing from Life
27 February – 28 June 2020 at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Tickets without donation from £17 - £20 | with donation from £19 - £22
Free for Members and Patrons

More about David Hockney


David Hockney, OM, CH, RA (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer. As an important contributor to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential and celebrated British artists of the late twentieth and early twenty first century.

More about David Hockney on this blog


[Note: It's while writing this post I realised that the NPG website has completely lost its digital and accessible archive of past exhibitions. I get distressed by website managers who do not realise that PAST EXHIBITIONS have as much value as an archive of academic and educational information as current exhibitions do in terms of generating money. Where do people get the idea that keeping archive pages costs huge sums of money?  Why do people think that getting rid of articles written at the time can just be dumped once the exhibition is over? They could at the very least keep the original front page of the exhibition site and the press release and links to any specially written articles and educational resources.  Thankfully some other major art galleries take a more informed and academic approach to website archives eg https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/past]


I've written about David Hockney on a number of occasions on this blog. You can READ my posts BELOW - they're organised backwards by years.

Those in 2006 and 2016 contain references to his artwork about the Yorkshire landscape - including the major exhibition he had at the Royal Academy of Art - which I will never ever forget

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