“We need art, and I do think it can relieve stress. What is stress? It’s worrying about something in the future. Art is now.”
Drawing from Life
In late February, the National Portrait Gallery in London opens David Hockney: Drawing from Life. As a career-long survey of drawings from private and public collections worldwide, it demonstrates Hockney’s extensive exploration into various media, from early collages and delicate colored-pencil portraits, to more recent charcoal sketches and brightly hued digital drawings. Drawing from Life’s particular focus on portraiture centers on Hockney’s representations of certain close companions over the decades: his longtime muse, the textile designer Celia Birtwell; curator Gregory Evans; master printer Maurice Payne; and the artist’s mother, Laura Hockney. The fifth fascinating sitter to be highlighted is Hockney himself, in scrutinizing self-portraits that date as far back as his teenage years. Reviewing the retrospective in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones writes: “Hockney here is not a star but a stare. . . . The intensity of Hockney’s self-inspection, fag in mouth, bears comparison with Rembrandt.” Celia Birtwell, reflecting on Hockney’s many portraits of her since the late 1960s, notes: “We only ever see ourselves in the mirror, we never ever see how we really are. He sees you as you really are.”
“You have to look and ask questions … about what you are seeing all the time. Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory—where it stays—it’s transmitted by your hands.”
“I think the way I draw, the more I know and react to people, the more interesting the drawings will be. I don’t like really struggling for a likeness. It seems a bit of a waste of effort. … If you don’t know the person, you don’t really know if you’ve got a likeness at all. I think it takes quite a long time.”
My Parents and Myself, On View
In conjunction with Drawing From Life, the National Portrait Gallery displays, for the first time in public, My Parents and Myself. This abandoned painting from 1975–76 is a precursor to one of Hockney’s most beloved works, My Parents, completed in 1977 and now in the collection of Tate Britain. The earlier painting includes a self-portrait, seen as a reflection in the mirror situated between Mr. and Mrs. Hockney. Hockney admits he held onto My Parents and Myself, keeping it in his LA studio despite his frustrations, because “It was, after all, painted from life. And my parents aren’t here now.”
“I was never truly satisfied, nor was I satisfied with it as a portrait of them. … So I had to struggle on. Now I might have abandoned it had it not been my parents.”
Video Brings Its Time to You…
At Annely Juda Fine Art in London, concurrent with the drawing retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, the show David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings presents his diverse production across various media over the past decade. It includes recent portraits of Margaret Hockney, the artist’s sister; Scarlett Clark, the granddaughter of Celia Birtwell; and musician friends including Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. Two video works, Woldgate Woods, Winter (2010) and Seven Yorkshire Landscapes (2011)—shot using multiple cameras on a moving vehicle—fill the gallery with multiscreen views of the English countryside as a changing landscape. The show also features several of Hockney’s 2018 photographic drawings, made as composite arrangements of various sitters in his Los Angeles studio.
The publisher Taschen releases a limited edition of Hockney’s artist’s book My Window, a portfolio of 120 iPhone and iPad drawings of the view from the window of his Yorkshire home, drawn between 2009 - 2012.
Springtime iPad Drawings
“I began drawing the winter trees on a new iPad. … I went on drawing the winter trees that eventually burst into blossom… Meanwhile, the virus is going mad, and many people said my drawings were a great respite from what was going on.”
In March, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing, Hockney begins to send iPad drawings of his Normandy garden out to friends , for instance a daffodil image titled Do Remember They Can’t Cancel The Spring. The drawings focus on the landscape’s renewal around him, especially the apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees of the region. When he releases ten of these images and an animation to the public through the BBC, the accompanying article includes his words of encouragement, including “I love life.”
Drawing from Life travels to New York
Late in the year, Drawing from Life travels from London to its New York venue, the Morgan Library and Museum. In the New York Times, Roberta Smith describes the Morgan exhibition as “beyond ample as a showcase for Mr. Hockney’s towering drawing gifts, openness to new technologies and his incessant work ethic.” His drawings, she writes, are “about loved ones and the complex, constantly morphing nature of relationships and the people who forge them.” Ultimately, they “attest to the endurance of love in our lives and the role of art in making us see it.”
“I came to Normandy because there are more blossoms here … apple blossoms, pear blossoms, cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, apricot blossoms … so I’ve really been able to get the arrival of spring here.”
“The only real things in life are food and love in that order,
just like our little dog Ruby.
I really believe this and the source of art is love.”
At Galerie Lelong & Co. in Paris, Hockney’s solo show Ma Normandie opens in mid-October, featuring recent paintings made in Normandy and inkjet prints. The images capture the quiet solitude of his days in Normandy since setting up his home and studio there in 2019 , as well as the charm of the region’s cottages , abundant fruit trees, and the subtleties of seasonal change.
Ma Normandie, Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris (Oct 15–Dec 23, 2020); catalogue with texts by Jean Frémon, Donatien Grau, and David Hockney.
David Hockney: Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, London (Feb 27–Jun 28); travels to the Morgan Library and Museum (Oct 2, 2020–May 30, 2021); catalogue with text by Sarah Howgate.
David Hockney: Video Brings Its Time to You, You Bring Your Time to Paintings and Drawings, Annely Juda Fine Art, London (Feb 28– July 31); catalogue.
- David Hockney, My Window, London: Taschen.