Curtain in the Theatre from "Stravinsky Triple Bill"
1981

The Metropolitan Opera

At long last, after delays due to a worker’s strike, the triple bill of Parade, Les mamelles de Tirésias, and L’enfant et les sortileges opens in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. All aspects of the production are applauded in the press; in the New York Times, Donal Henehan writes that Hockney’s “dazzling poster-art and witty costumes provided not only color, but also dramatic continuity to the whole night.” The Met commissions Hockney and director John Dexter [NESTED]to work together again, on a staging of Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), Le rossignol (The Nightingale)and Oedipus Rex that debuts at the end of the year.

Oedipus on Stage with Mountains Behind from "Oedipus Rex", 1981
Oedipus on Stage with Mountains Behind from "Oedipus Rex", 1981

Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Curtain in the Theatre from "Stravinsky Triple Bill"
Set from "Le Sacre du printemps"
Superimposed Figures I from "Le Sacre du printemps"
Superimposed Figures VII from "Le Sacre du printemps"
Dancers III from "Le Sacre du printemps"
Costume Study with Priests from "Le Sacre du printemps"

Le rossignol (The Nightingale)

Dancing Figures with Mountains and Trees from "Le rossignol"
Courtiers and Mountains from "Le rossignol"
Study of Courtiers on the Stage from "Le rossignol"
Emperor and Courtiers from "Le rossignol"
Forty Chinese Masks from "Le rossignol"
Costume for Death from "Le rossignol"
Japanese Ambassador from "Le rossignol"
Emperor's March from "Le rossignol"
Representation of Real and Mechanical Nightingale from "Le rossignol"
Studies for Mechanical Nightingale from "Le rossignol"
Sketch of Mechanical Nightingale from "Le rossignol"

Oedipus Rex

Sketch from "Oedipus Rex"
Oedipus on Stage with Mountains Behind from "Oedipus Rex"
Study of Masks II from "Oedipus Rex"
Mask Studies from "Oedipus Rex"
Principal Singers, Chorus and Narrator from "Oedipus Rex"
Principal Singers and Chorus from "Oedipus Rex"
Auditorium from "Oedipus Rex"
Raised Stage with Orchestra from "Oedipus Rex"
Study of Masks for Principals and Chorus from "Oedipus Rex"
Seeing and Blind Masks IV from "Oedipus Rex"
Sketch for Blind Mask from "Oedipus Rex"
Blind Mask from "Oedipus Rex"

China Diary

In May, touring China at the prompting of the editor Nikos Stangos at Thames & Hudson, Hockney takes photographs and makes watercolors—two mediums that accommodate a swift pace of travel. Alongside descriptions by the English writer and poet Stephen Spender, his travel companion along with Gregory Evans, Hockney’s images are published in [NESTED]the book China Diary (1982). From observing Chinese artists at work, his appreciation for loose, fast brushwork grows, as does his openness to relying on memory to represent an experience.

There was hardly a time when you had half an hour to sit around; so I realized I had to devise a method of drawing quickly or from memory. I started drawing from memory more and more.

There was hardly a time when you had half an hour to sit around; so I realized I had to devise a method of drawing quickly or from memory. I started drawing from memory more and more.

GA-102 p. 30
GA 100 p. 33
GA-100 p. 4
Green Mountain and Blue Mountain from "China Trip"
Mountains and Trees, Kweilin
Hotel at Sian, China from "China Trip"
Sign: Sian China from "China Trip"
Tian An Men Square with Bicycles. China. from "China Trip"
Stephen with Squiggles on Shirt. China. from "China Trip"
Forbidden City and Tian An Men Square II. China. from "China Trip"
Lounge in Hotel, Nanking. China. from "China Trip"
Forbidden City and Tian An Men Square I. China. from "China Trip"
Forbidden City and Tian An Men Square III. China. from "China Trip"
Stephen Spender
Kweilin Study from "China Trip"
Hotel T.V. from "China Trip"
Figure with Red Wall. China. from "China Trip"
Tai-Chi Figures and Red Wall. China. from "China Trip"
Tai-Chi Figures with Trees. China. from "China Trip"
Tian An Men Square and Forbidden City from "China Trip"
Hotel. Sian from "China Trip"
Tian An Men Square with Monument to the People's Heroes and the Mao Tse-Tung Memorial Hall. China. from "China Trip"
Plants, Trees, Fields and Mountains, Kweilin. China. from "China Trip"
Avenue of Perpetual Peace from The Peking Hotel. China. from "China Trip"
Kweilin Airport. China. from "China Trip"
Old Man Walking II. China. from "China Trip"
Peking View. China. from "China Trip"
Bedside Table. China. from "China Trip"
Tian An Men Square Peking (with Buses and Bicycles). China. from "China Trip"
Canal, Hangchow. China from "China Trip"

The Artist's Eye

In the summer, Hockney organizes an exhibition for the series The Artist’s Eye at the National Gallery in London. As his contribution, he re-conceives his 1977 painting Looking at Pictures on a Screen, which shows the curator Henry Geldzahler looking [NESTED]at reproductions of artworks by Vermeer, Piero della Francesca, Van Gogh, and Degas; this time, the original artworks and original reproductions are installed in the gallery. The scenario invites viewers to consider what differences exist between versions, and to embrace the ease of distribution that mechanical reproduction enables.

The Artist's Eye Poster, 1981
The Artist's Eye Poster, 1981
Looking at Pictures on a Screen, 1977

You can take the cheap photographic copy home. You can pin it up next to your bed. You can have a look at it at night. You can wake up and have a look at it in the morning. And it’s giving off pleasure in strange ways that go on and on.

Hockney inserting himself into "Looking at Pictures on a Screen"

Now I think the best use for photography, the best use for it, is photographing other pictures. It is the only time it can be true to its medium, in the sense that it’s real. This is the only way you can take a photograph that could be described as having a strong illusion of reality. Because on the flat surface of the photograph is simply reproduced another flat surface—painting.

Hockney in the gallery

Lithographs at Gemini G.E.L.

Back in Los Angeles in the fall, Hockney works with the publisher Gemini G.E.L. and releases a print portfolio mostly of images of Celia Birtwell. 

Big Celia Print No. 1
Big Celia Print No. 2

Hollywood Hills House

At home in Bradford for Christmas, he paints, across three canvases, Hollywood Hills House, based on his recollection of how it feels to move through his L.A. home—past opera models, a picture of Laurel and Hardy painted by his father, and a postcard of a Renaissance painting.

Hollywood Hills House, 1982
Terrace Hollywood Hills House with Banana Tree
Terrace Hollywood Hills House with Banana Tree and Electric Cord
Studio, Hollywood Hills House
Hockney at work in the studio

Exhibitions

Solo

  • David Hockney, Castelli Graphics, New York (Mar 14–Apr 4).
  • Paintings and Drawings for “Parade”, André Emmerich Gallery, New York (Mar 26–Apr 18); travels to Riverside Studios, London (May 5–Jun 7); Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris.
  • David Hockney: Prints and Drawings of Celia 1970–1980, Petersburg Press at The Chicago Art Fair, Chicago (May 14–19).
  • Stage Designs for “The Rake’s Progress” and “The Magic Flute”, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (May 18–Jun 28).
  • Celia and Flowers: 1965–1980, Knoedler Gallery, London (opens May 27).
  • David Hockney, Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris (Jun 12–Aug 1).
  • Blue Guitar, Meta Galleria, Florence (Jun).
  • The Artist’s Eye: David Hockney. Looking at Pictures on a Screen, National Gallery, London (Jul 1–Aug 31); catalogue Looking at Pictures in a Book, with a text by David Hockney.
  • Parade von Eric Satie, Galerie Herbert Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt am Main (Sep 23–Nov 21).
  • Opere grafiche, Galleria del Cavallino, San Marco (Sep).
  • David Hockney: Drawings, Rex Irwin Gallery, Woollahra, Australia (Sep).
  • Zeichnungen und Grafik, Galeri Kammer, Hamburg (Oct–Nov).
  • David Hockney, Gallery at 24, Miami, FL (Nov).

Group

  • A New Spirit in Painting, Royal Academy of Arts, London (Jan 15–Mar 18); catalogue.
  • Westkunst, Museen der Stadt Köln (May 30–Aug 16); catalogue.
  • Art in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Nov 20, 1981–Jan 31, 1982); catalogue.
  • Instant Fotografie, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (Dec 4, 1981–Jan 17, 1982); catalogue.